Kristen Tibbetts: Is it OK if I record this interview?
ST: No. Ah, you’re recording! That’s illegal.
KT: Steven, please.
ST: Yes. You really didn’t have to ask me that.
KT: OK. Where do you play tennis?
ST: I play tennis at McCallum High School, and I play tennis at MAC 360 Tennis Academy.
I would preferably barely make the starting lineup in my first year and work my way up. But, even in my senior year, I probably still wouldn’t want to be the best player on the team. That was my goal, and I think I found that at Southwestern.”
— senior tennis player Steven Tibbetts on his ideal college tennis program
KT: Where else have you played throughout your tennis career?
ST: I played at Westwood Country Club.
KT: Why did you start playing tennis?
ST: I was a very competitive kid, and my dad is a tennis coach. Your dad is a tennis coach. So that helped me get started with it, and I just liked it. I like playing an individual sport because I get to play all the time.
KT: What do you remember from when you first started playing tennis?
ST: When I first started? I just remember playing with Mom in our cul-de-sac. We just hit a tennis ball around [in the street].
KT: How do you think having your dad as a coach has helped, or possibly hurt you?
ST: It helped me because it’s probably the only way I would have gotten into tennis or even known about tennis really. It didn’t really hurt at all because he just wanted to be a dad and not my tennis coach. I also just wanted him to be Dad and not Coach, so that worked out pretty well.
KT: What are the differences between playing for McCallum and playing for MAC 360?
ST: I practice a lot more at MAC 360. There really isn’t that much difference. At McCallum, the fall season is team-based, so I don’t get to count that for USTA [United States Tennis Association] or anything. I play a lot more tournaments in USTA than I play high school tournaments. There’s a ranking for USTA.
KT: What rank are you?
ST: I’m in the top 50, but I’m not sure exactly. I’m somewhere in the 40s in Texas.
Steven Tibbetts won first place in the boys singles tournament at Bastrop on Jan. 26, 2018. Photo by Kristen Tibbetts.
KT: Can you walk me through your schedule on an average week?
ST: In an average week I practice 18 hours. Twelve of those are at MAC 360, and that goes Monday through Thursday. I practice the other six hours over the weekends. From Friday to Sunday, I play two of the days and usually take one off.
KT: What are some of your memories from freshman year tennis at McCallum?
ST: I remember playing line two when I should have been line one, but [by the end of the year] I got to play line one. That was pretty cool. I remember that year at districts I beat Connor Teseny, who was the second-best guy on the team. He was a senior. Then, I lost two other matches to LBJ players, so I got third in districts, and I was one away from making it to regionals. I remember that in the fall [of that year], we got third place behind LBJ and Bastrop. We got killed by LBJ, but we barely lost to Bastrop for second place and ended up getting third. Then, we got clapped in the playoffs. I remember we didn’t win a single match. Aaron [Baldauf] and I were pretty close to winning our doubles, but we barely lost. I didn’t get to play my singles, though. If I had gotten to play my singles, we would have won a match.
KT: Why didn’t you get to play?
ST: Because it was already over. We got clapped so bad. Honestly, though, it was probably the best year that we had as a team.
I like how you can directly tell how good you are because it is individual. It’s not like ‘Is my team carrying me?’ or ‘Am I carrying the team?’ because I can tell exactly how good I am.”
— Steven Tibbetts on why he likes tennis
KT: And then the next year your stupid little sister joined.
ST: And she kind of ruined it. No, actually I think last year was the best year.
KT: The team placed third in districts last year, right?
ST: We got third every year, except for fourth this year because they changed our district. They added Dripping Springs and Lockhart, and we lost to both of them. That’s the other different thing [between club tennis and high school tennis]. In high school, I know beforehand if the team will lose or win, and most of the time I know if I will lose or win as an individual. In club tennis, USTA, it’s more up in the air.
KT: Do you prepare differently for club tennis and high school tennis?
ST: Nope. I feel a little bit more pressure for high school tennis, I guess.
KT: You recently went to the Capital Area Tennis Association (CATA) banquet and received an award. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
ST: I won the Capital Area Professionals Tennis Association [CAPTA] scholarship for $500, and I got the McCallum High School male MVP award. [Senior Vivian Williams won the female MVP award].
KT: How did you apply for the scholarship?
ST: I submitted a resume, an essay, and Coach Purkiss and Coach Barber wrote a recommendation letter for me. I also submitted my transcript.
KT: How did you know that you wanted to play tennis in college?
ST: It was always a goal of mine to play in college, ever since I started playing really.
Senior Steven Tibbetts won all three of his matches (6-0) (6-0) at the district tournament. He later went on to achieve third overall at the 5A Region IV tournament at Blossom Tennis Center in San Antonio after winning his first two matches (6-4), (6-1) and (6-0), (6-0) and then losing his semifinal match two sets to one and winning his last. “I was impressed with Steven’s performance, no opponent won a game off of him,” Purkiss said. “From Steven, who is the most experienced, all the way to the new players, everyone played really hard and tried their best. It was a great performance overall for the team.”
KT: What schools were you looking for?
ST: Preferably a school where I would make the team, obviously. I would preferably barely make the starting lineup in my first year and work my way up. But, even in my senior year, I probably still wouldn’t want to be the best player on the team. That was my goal, and I think I found that at Southwestern.
KT: What line do you think you will play next year at Southwestern?
ST: It won’t be easy to be starting my first year, but I think I can do it. There are six lines in singles, so I could see myself being five or six. We’ll see. Then, in doubles, I could be line three, which is the last line in the starting lineup.
KT: How is Southwestern ranked?
ST: They are about 30th in Division III in the nation and second best in the conference.
KT: Who’s first?
KT: Is that a big rivalry?
ST: No, not really, because Trinity always beats them. Southwestern beat them once last year, though.
KT: I know you were also considering going to Trinity. What made you chose Southwestern?
ST: Southwestern was a lot cheaper because they offered me a much bigger scholarship. Also, I think at Southwestern I will be able to play my first year. At Trinity, that would be unlikely for my first few years.
KT: Do you think that you’ll be able to beat Trinity in the next few years?
ST: I don’t think we have a great shot next year, but maybe in three years. Southwestern got a bunch of really good freshman last year, so by the time they are seniors, Trinity will lose a lot of their best players.
KT: How would your life be different if you didn’t play tennis?
ST: I would have a lot more time, but I would be bored a lot if I didn’t play tennis. I would definitely play another sport, though.
In high school, I know beforehand if the team will lose or win, and most of the time I know if I will lose or win as an individual. In club tennis, USTA, it’s more up in the air.”
— Steven Tibbetts on the difference between high school and club tennis
KT: What would be your second choice?
ST: Soccer, even though I’ve always felt that baseball would be my best sport. Unfortunately, it’s the most boring sport in the world.
KT: Do you want that on the record?
Graduate Steven Tibbetts is headed to Southwestern after getting his diploma and shaking principal Mike Garrison’s hand at the commencement ceremony at the Erwin Center on May 29.
KT: Why did you choose tennis over the other sports?
ST: I thought it was the sport I would be best at, and I like how you can directly tell how good you are because it is individual. It’s not like “Is my team carrying me?” or “Am I carrying the team?” because I can tell exactly how good I am. I can say “I am a top 30 senior in Texas,” and it’s kind of indisputable.
KT: That’s all based on your record, right?
KT: Do you ever feel the pressure of changing your record when you’re playing tournaments?
ST: Not while I’m playing. I mostly think about if I’m going to damage my self esteem or if I’ll be sad or happy.
KT: What has been your happiest moment?
ST: There was one USTA tournament where I won singles and doubles. It was a long time ago, but it was probably my happiest moment.
KT: When was that?
ST: It was when I was 14, I think.
KT: That was around the time your sister started playing tennis with you. What was that like?
ST: Awful because she’s really bad. You need to put that in there.
KT: I will.