When Wheeler’s Jack Hibbard first started playing tennis, his racket was bigger than he was.
“My dad got me started in tennis when I was 2 years old,” Hibbard said. “My dad was really into tennis, and so was his dad. He got me out on the court and I loved it from the get-go. I can’t remember not playing tennis.”
The Bearcats junior went 18-1 in the No. 3 spot as a freshman, and 17-3 in the No. 1 spot as a sophomore. Head coach Mike Rosta expects that Hibbard could “win every match” this season as the team’s No. 1 player. Rosta also notes that much of Hibbard’s success is owed to the time he spends honing his skills outside of practice.
“When you find somebody who has played tennis for so long, their tennis instincts just take over,” Rosta said. “He’s intelligent on the court and he knows the game. He knows how to play certain people. He’s such a hard worker, and he’s the kid I don’t have to worry about. After practice in the morning, I’ll see him at the courts later in the evening hitting with his dad or someone else. That’s the thing you can’t teach – you want to have to force them off the courts.”
Hibbard has practiced with the Bearcats varsity tennis squad since he was a sixth-grader.
“Playing with the team earlier really helped me and when I was a freshman, I felt like I was in my place,” Hibbard said.
During the high school off-season, Hibbard plays in United States Tennis Association tournaments around the Midwest. He believes that participating in these tournaments helps him keep his edge because he often faces players that he competes against during the high school season.
“Tennis is so competitive and any type of player is going to give you a good match,” Hibbard said. “I love it because you have to fight for every single point. Every match is different and you have to work your way through it. I know there’s players out there that are a lot better than me, but I’m going to do the best I can. I know that if I do that, I can beat those people. I really try and get better every day. Tennis is a challenging sport. I just go out there, work hard, and do my best.”
“Jack is a competitor, he’ll be harder on himself than anybody,” Rosta added “If he’s struggling with his forehand or backhand then he’ll be hitting off the ball machine or practicing in the evenings or on the weekends to make sure he gets to where he needs to be.”
Rosta is looking toward Hibbard to not only be a powerhouse for the Bearcats this season, but to be a leader on the court, as well. He also considers Hibbard to be like an “extra coach on the court.”
“Jack’s the one that we use for examples on drills,” Rosta said. “He leads by example, so that’s going to be majority of his role this year.”
Items on Hibbard’s to-do list include taking his team deep into the postseason and getting his game to the collegiate level. Hibbard has faith that his competitive spirit can lead him toward accomplishing his goals.
“One of my biggest strengths is that I’m competitive,” he said. “I’m never going to back down against anyone – I don’t care if it’s the number one player in the country or a player from my district. I’m going to play hard every single point – every point matters to me. I’m going to run hard for every ball.”