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.
Tennis players may not have a traditional reputation as being fans of daredevil action — but Springville senior Tim Barton loved the adrenaline rush of a challenging ski run.
He said that up until a few years ago, he felt that a day skiing wasn’t complete without at least one crash because that meant he wasn’t really pushing himself.
Things changed in 2017, however, when an unexpected patch of powder catapulted him into a tree, resulting in major injuries.
“I had a compact femur fracture that went through my knee, as well as a collapsed lung and a traumatic brain injury,” Barton said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I was unable to play for a long time. I had 18 months of physical therapy, so it wasn’t until the tennis season swung around my sophomore year (2018) that I was almost finished.”
Since he couldn’t play as a freshman, he still participated with the Red Devil boys tennis squad as a manager — and ended up getting one unique opportunity.
“At the very end of the season I was just barely cleared to bare weight,” Barton said. “In six months, I hadn’t touched my leg to the ground once but my surgeon said I was good to step on my leg. The very next day, my coach told me that there was someone who was ineligible to play at region and asked if I wanted to fill his spot. I was so excited. I hobbled onto the court on my crutches, but then I dropped the crutches, picked up a racked and jumped around on one foot.”
He and his doubles partner, Porter Olsen, got second in the alternate region tournament that year.
After he finished his therapy and kept working back, but he still dealt with some of the side effects of his injury.
“I have slower reaction time because if it,” Barton said. “School is hard. I lost of fine motor skills on the right side of my body and although I still play tennis right-handed, I write left-handed and other things.”
He said the accident motivated him to work hard and he was determined to come back and do even better.
“I’ll always remember all the work I put in the offseason,” Barton said. “My goal was to be the No. 1 singles player and I made that, being in that spot for the last two years.”
He said he was thrilled to be a part of the 2020 Springville team, which he said was a great group.
“Our squad is awesome,” Barton said. “We have a really hardworking, determined group of boys. We always do pretty well.The boys work really hard and are lots of fun. They create an amazing tennis environment.”
He worked with fellow senior and captain Sam Lindsey and they pushed each other while still having fun.
“Sam and I played No. 1 and No. 2 on the high school team,” Barton said. “We are close friends. He’s got great shoes all the time. He got these new shoes before the tennis season that were nice.”
Lindsey said that seeing Barton overcome the accident and play at a high level was inspiring.
"It was hard to watch a teammate go through that," Lindsey said. "He's a great competitor. I was super-happy that he was able to get back from his injury."
Red Devil head coach Kamryn Rose said both captains played key roles.
“We had two outstanding team captains this year,” Rose said. “Both were seniors and had amazing work ethic and sportmanship. Both were top level players as No. 1 Singles and No. 2 singles. They played well together and gave encouragement to the other.”
But then came the COVID-19 pandemic and the sacrifice of the spring sports season. Barton said it was tough to see another season get ripped away after he had lost the others to his accident.
“It was disappointing because I had worked so hard to come back from the accident and I was ready,” Barton said. “I had been playing every day for a long time. I remember being out there practicing with the guys when we got the word that school was being closed. Everyone was in shock.”
Lindsey said he has gotten out and played a few times but it hasn't been easy to face the emotions of not being able to be competing in a normal season.
"I was disppointed when the pandemic hit," Lindsey said. "I started going full-time at work but I still try to get out and hit a little bit. It was a little upsetting. I would be trying to stay positive but then I would get reminded that I should be playing a match. I just had to get over it."
Barton said he has learned that dealing with adversity is about having the right approach.
“I’ve learned that no matter what you can still work hard,” Barton said. “Even though I didn’t get those seasons, I’m still in a better place than I was before because I worked hard and put in a lot effort. I feel like another aspect of dealing with adversity is to just keep chugging along. There is nothing you could do about a pandemic or sometimes with getting hurt. You have to think positive. I feel like through trials you can build yourself up with others. You are in it together and that’s a good spirit to have.”
Lindsey said tennis has taught him the importance of being strong mentally, a lesson he has tried to apply during these tough times.
"It's a big mental game," Lindsey said. "It's good to stay mentally tough. You can tell a lot about your opponent by looking at their mental game. A strong mental game gives you an edge, which is something that also applies to life. I feel like that has helped during the last couple of months but there have been some ups and downs. Having that strength has helped me stay positive but it's still a roller coaster."