City’s youth players serve it up
Published 10:40 am Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The only family member who can stop three of the best young tennis players in Mississippi is Mother Nature.
If she brings a cruel rain pattering to the ground or bolts of lightning shocking the sky, John Robert Jabour, Braxton Chewning and Taylor Chewning will stay off the court. If not, they’ll be out there, toiling away to continue to be the best. All three are ranked No. 1 in the state in their respective age groups.
“It’s conducive to the program we ‘ve had for years now,” their coach Rick Shields said. “The only thing stopping this program pretty much is the weather.”
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The program Shields speaks so highly of is the city-sponsored tennis clinic he hosts every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. The lessons are free of charge to any 5-to-18 year old wanting to participate and tackles the basic fundamentals of the sport.
“It’s a city-funded program supported by our mayor and two aldermen,” Shields said. “We appreciate their support. That’s why we can have it at no charge, because they fund it.”
Jabour and the Chewnings are what some would call the crown jewels of the program. Jabour is No. 1 in Mississippi in the under-12 category, Braxton and Taylor in the boys and girls under-14 division, respectively.
Out of the three, the 12-year-old Jabour has been playing the longest, beginning his tennis career seven years ago. He relishes the idea that tennis is won or lost by your actions and your actions alone.
“It’s just playing the point, the thrill of hitting the ball back and forth,” Jabour said. “Each point, you can either lose the point or win the point.”
The brother-sister Chewning combo began after Braxton watched his sister play and thought he would give it a whirl.
“When I first came out here I was hitting them all over the fence,” he said with a laugh. “After some practice, I got my stroke down.”
Now the 14-year-old has vaulted atop the novice rankings along with his sister. But don’t expect that to ease the natural competitive tension that resides between the two.
“They’re very competitive. Taylor’s younger and she hates to lose to Braxton, but Braxton is bigger and stronger so he’ll generally beat her,” Shields said. “They help each other out by hitting and playing against each other. Iron sharpens iron, so that’s a big advantage that she has, having an older brother to play against.”
Taylor said she appreciates the competition and is known to win a game or two from her brother as well, but not without some disputes.
“It helped me learn better, because I started a little bit before with my brother but not too much,” she said.
The novice Mississippi champ right now echoed the sentiments of Jabour, who both say they love the individual aspect the sport of tennis brings.
“That it’s a one-person sport, except doubles,” she said. “If you mess up, it’s your fault. Don’t blame it on other people.”
Shields has seen the unbelievable growth from his three studs as they climb the rankings and continue to get better, using the after-school tennis program to further enhhance their skills in the sport they love.
“The sky is the limit for these kids,” he said. “For their tennis careers, they’re all very talented kids. It’s a matter of what they want to do with it.”