For the most part, the typical high school experience and elite-level tennis players don’t mix well. While high school tennis is a great experience, you won’t find many seeded players at the Boys and Girls 18 & Under National Championships who also anchor their high-school tennis lineups.
There are exceptions, of course. Jack Sock played all four years of high school tennis for Blue Valley North in Kansas City (without losing a match), and J.J. Wolf played high school soccer, basketball and baseball until he was 16.
But when it comes to balancing class time, teachers typically don’t appreciate athletes missing days. It’s a vicious cycle, too, the better you play, the more classes you are bound to miss. Many top players opt for an online schooling program to better fit their training and travel schedule, yet oftentimes their schedule is still too much for a one-size-fits-all program.
Iga Swiatek won Roland Garros just months removed from finishing high school. (Getty Images)
The plan is to leverage ICL Academy’s curriculum through a personalized approach that combines academics with tennis training. ICL Academy is powered by 150 years of academic excellence from the Dwight School and the 20-year track record of the Institute for Civic Leadership (ICL), a nonprofit that inspires, educates and supports youth civic leaders.
“As more and more students pivot to online learning due to COVID, we are pleased to launch the Universal Tennis School in partnership with ICL Academy to offer aspiring tennis players the ability to dedicate themselves to tennis and to their education in a highly personalized, flexible and high quality environment," said UTR CEO Mark Leschly.
For ICL Academy founder and former top-ranked junior, Kirk Spahn, the initiative hits close to home. As a junior, Spahn faced the tough decision of pursuing his dreams of becoming a professional, or attending an elite prep school that would prepare him for an Ivy League education.
"No student athlete should have to make a decision between a first rate education and their dreams,” Spahn said. "The Universal Tennis School will enable talented young players to achieve at the highest levels academically and athletically.”
While the UTR school won’t make becoming a professional tennis player any easier, Spahn and UTR hope to create a program that works with the athletes, instead of against them.