Tanner McAllister Lehi boys tennis

Lehi boys tennis captain Tanner McAllister goes up high for a ball during a match this season.

Editor’s note: Since being part of a high school sports team isn’t just about competing in scheduled events, the Daily Herald is going behind the scenes and telling a little bit of the stories of our 2020 spring athletic squads here in Utah Valley. To do that, we are having team captains describe their teams, talk about favorite experiences and relate lessons learned.

High school athletes have had to find their own way to get through the COVID-19 shutdown.

Lehi boys tennis captain Tanner McAllister deals with the disappointment of losing his senior year by passing the skills of the sport he loves on to others.

“I teach tennis lessons every day at Willow Creek Middle School,” McAllister said. “I have five adults and some younger kids ages 5 to 16. I get paid for it but it’s still really fun. I think that’s the biggest thing. We’ve all been locked down inside so we go out on the court, play some music and just have fun. The younger ones want to listen to Disney songs or Maroon 5. I like to play country music, but I take requests.”

As juniors, McAllister and Braden Francom earned the No. 2-seed in 1st Doubles from Region 10. McAllister and Francom won their first-round match but lost in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A tournament. This season, the team got to compete at a preseason tournament in St. George before the spring seasons were shut down.

“I played some basketball in high school, too, but I quit basketball to focus on tennis,” McAllister said. “I love tennis so much. It’s something I’ve been playing my whole life. I look back on high school tennis and remember the friendships and the team bond.”

Lehi tennis coach Alan Wofford said McAllister was an exemplary captain.

“Tanner, like the other seniors on our varsity team, started playing tennis his freshman year,” Wofford said. “At that time Skyridge had just split from us, leaving us with only three returning players. That year during tryouts I literally had to teach Tanner and the other new players the proper grips and how to keep score. Now, these boys can compete against anyone we play. I have had coaches from all over the state marvel at their improvement. It’s difficult to sit through this pandemic because we were off to a great start.”

McAllister said one of the activities the team participated in on the annual preseason trip to St. George was a golf competition. McAllister teamed up with Wofford to win last year’s event.

“We were the last ones up and everyone was watching us,” McAllister said. “Coach had a 30-foot putt he had to make for us to win. He hit it and followed it all the way to the hole for the victory.”

Wofford used to joke with his players that if they ever did anything bad on the trip they had better not be wearing Lehi tennis shirts. This year, some of the players snuck out to Denny’s late one night while wearing American Fork T-shirts.

McAllister will receive his mission call in the next two weeks. When he returns, he said he wants to try to play tennis for Dixie State.

“At first, getting everything postponed and canceled was really hard,” McAllister said. “We worked so hard and it was kind of a make-or-break season for me. Now I realize that things happen and the hard work wasn’t for nothing. It helped me be able to teach tennis. I can see the positives in everything.”

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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