Apex: The right mindset


Carter Chadwick

Emily Novikov (11) poses outside the Blackford Campus tennis courts with her Yonex Ezone 98 tennis racket. Emily helped lead the varsity girls tennis team to a CCS Championship in her sophomore year.

by Carter Chadwick, TALON co-Photo Editor

As the match approaches, tennis player Emily Novikov (11) reaches into her bag and pulls out her jump rope and headphones. She slips on the headphones, turns on music and begins to jump rope. Slowly, the outside world begins to fade, and she loses any remaining anxiety before her upcoming game. Once finished, she stretches and then runs a lap. With each step, she becomes closer to the level of mental preparation needed for her match. It’s all about the mentality, and when she reaches it, Emily is ready to dominate.

Since her parents and coaches encouraged to start playing the sport at age five, tennis has played an integral part of Emily’s life. After playing individually for many years, Emily joined Harker’s varsity girls tennis team last year after being encouraged by her friends. Though she plays both singles and doubles tennis, Emily prefers singles, as she enjoys being able to see her growth and development as an athlete.

“Being on a team is fun, but when it’s just you and it’s your skills alone, it’s really helpful to get into the sport because you’re trying to work on your own goals,” Emily said. “That’s pretty much what keeps me going.”

Since tennis has no timer, athletes are able to make comebacks at all times. As a result, for Emily, being in the right mindset before and during practices and games is paramount.

“During practices, I’ll really try to motivate myself. It’s ingrained in my head that if I’m not in it mentally, then I can’t really play the sport,” Emily said. “For tennis, you can play well, but if you’re not in it mentally, then you won’t play as well.”

When it’s just you and it’s your skills alone, it’s really helpful to get into the sport because you’re trying to work on your own goals. That’s pretty much what keeps me going.

— Emily Novikov (10)

During her sophomore season, the varsity girls tennis team qualified to compete at CCS. Harker was able to defeat Menlo High School to bring home the CCS Championship, and Emily played Singles 1 in the finals. With the Menlo fans cheering against her, Emily found the match to be “stressful,” especially since she was facing an opponent whom she had previously lost to. Despite believing that she was not fully mentally prepared, she was still able to win her match.

“I had never really played on a team before, it was fun to experience it with other people cause usually when I win it’s just by myself,” Emily said, of the experience. “Having a team was completely new to me and it was fun to experience that with everyone else.”

Natasha Rajaram (10), one of Emily’s teammates, describes Emily as an “aggressive” tennis player with one of the “best back-hands [she] has ever encountered.” She also touches on how playing with a team, as opposed to individually, can affect one’s mental state.

“If you have your teammates cheering you on, then it does have an effect. I would say that it doesn’t change your game, but it does change your mental state,” Natasha said.

Emily has also established a deep connection with her coach Urska Dvorsek, who has been coaching Emily since she was six years old.

“She’s another person I can look up to and who’s always going to be there for me even when she’s not my coach in college,” Emily said. “She’s the main reason why I still play and love the sport, and she’s also my reason behind my results in the sport.”

Over a long period of time, Dvorsek and Emily have developed a consistent routine for Emily to practice before every game to mentally prepare herself.

“It’s just to calm their mind. It depends on the player, but a lot of stuff has to do with the warm up,” Coach Dvorsek said. “You can do some game visualization. Some [athletes] need to move away from everything, [others] need to not be distracted, it just depends.”

In the future, Emily looks forward to another season with Harker’s tennis team. She hopes to continue her athletic career at the next level as well by playing Division 1 tennis in college.