Senior Shelby Johnston feeds a ball to her student. She privately coaches a freshman junior varsity player at the Oak Creek Tennis Center.
Senior Shelby Johnston feeds a ball to her student. She privately coaches a freshman junior varsity player at the Oak Creek Tennis Center.
Andrew Higgins

Coaching while playing

Playing tennis while serving as a role model is senior Shelby Johnston’s reality.

It has been true as long as she’s been alive. Johnston was born into a large family of tennis players; building relations and adapting skills, all through tennis, has become common for her. She serves a variety of roles in her community, such as being the varsity captain of the tennis team and a coach at the Oak Creek Tennis Center in Carrollton.

“Tennis has been in my family for a long time,” Johnston said. “Having a dad who is a coach, you kind of get sucked into it. Keeping [these family values and] working out is one of my favorite things to do, [but,] naturally, my heart goes for tennis.”

Johnston said her upbringing wasn’t the easiest. At four months old, she and her brother were placed into the foster care system for two and a half years before finding their permanent home. She also recently had to cope with losing her coach of three and a half years, David Miller. 

“He was one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever met [and] definitely one of the greatest people,” Johnston said. “When he was coaching me, he was helping me find who I was and how to keep my mental game in play. He helped me heal from things I didn’t know I could heal from. When he passed, it felt like my progress just washed away.”

The loss of her coach affected more than just her. Johnston’s mother, Christie Johnston, said the loss affected her in multiple ways.

“Coach David was someone that Shelby could come to talk to [and was] just a great role model,” Christie said. “She started volunteering at [the] tennis center teaching kids, [and] would volunteer and work with him after school [as well.]”

Johnston has been working at the tennis center since 2021, teaching elementary schoolers and helping with Instructional Player Development, a program for people in high school and middle school tennis. In addition, she’s also recently taken up private lessons with freshman and junior varsity player Emaan Lodhi.

“Shelby has really improved my footwork and my serves,” Lodhi said. “She fixed my serves in [about a] week, and [her relatability] just helps me be comfortable around [her]. [It makes me] able to do my best.”

Johnston is also the tennis team’s captain and said she helps everyone get along with each other so that they can do their best. The tennis team has just entered the off-season after being in tournaments almost every week since early August.

“[We] definitely have to get along with everybody on the team,” Johnston said. “[We have to help with] making ideas, [along with] contributing to team events [and] team dinners. We [all even] took a day off to decorate the Homecoming float all together and went [out] to eat afterwards. It was really fun.”

After graduation, Johnston said she wants to attend college and either explore coaching tennis or baking as a career. Currently, her hobbies are cooking, baking, hanging out with her friends, drawing, painting and playing with her bird, Zazu. Regardless of what she pursues, Johnston said she wants to keep tennis a part of her life because she’s used to overcoming the mental challenges that come with it.

“People don’t realize how hard [sports] could be on one’s mentality and physical body,” Johnston said. “Tennis [is] just like every other sport — you can always have a huge impact on [someone’s life.]”

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    nigelNov 29, 2023 at 8:24 AM

    lit 🔥