Eastside fresh­man Ven­ham in ‘love’ with ten­nis

The Covington News - - SPORTS & LIVING - TYLER WIL­LIAMS twilliams@cov­news.com

When ask­ing many kids what they want to be when they grow up, they’ll tell you it’s their dream to be a pro­fes­sional ath­lete.

Whether their plans fall through, or they de­cide to chase a new dream, many won’t fol­low through with this as­pi­ra­tion of com­pet­ing in a sport for a liv­ing. How­ever, there are those who find their nat­u­ral abil­ity as an ath­lete at a young age, and work tire­lessly to pur­sue that dream.

In essence, that de­scribes Abbey Grace Ven­ham and the game of ten­nis. For Ven­ham, the fresh­man ten­nis stand­out at Eastside High, ten­nis is more than a sport.

“I love it enough to never get tired of it,” Ven­ham said.

It’s a sport she’s in­vested her time and re­sources into since she was about seven years old, and a pas­sion her fam­ily took no­tice of early on in her play­ing.

“She loves it enough to do home­work and eat din­ner in the car on the way back and forth every day,” her grand­fa­ther Bill Blair. “She’s a good lit­tle player, but she’s still de­vel­op­ing,” he said. “She’s ranked in the state in the 14 and un­der class, which she’s about to turn 15, so she’s about to move up, and she’s al­ready started play­ing in the 16-year old age bracket.”

The age dif­fer­ence means very lit­tle to Ven­ham, who is all about com­pe­ti­tion and trav­el­ing to con­tinue to im­prove her skills. She plays over 20 United States Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion (USTA) matches a year trav­el­ing to places like Columbia, SC and Dothan, Ala. in a span of two week­ends.

Even when she’s not on the court in a match, she finds her­self spend­ing even more time on it, try­ing to im­prove her ten­nis skills.

“She’s with a lo­cal coach two days a week, then she also goes to Beck Ten- nis Academy, and she’s play­ing on the week­ends,” Blair said. “You have to put in the time.”

Time on the court is a given for Ven­ham as she av­er­ages nearly two and a half hours a day work­ing to pol­ish her play.

Her tal­ent and strong work ethic has trans­lated to the lo­cal courts as well, which is seen through her high school dom­i­nance in her fresh­man year at Eastside, much to the plea­sure of Ea­gles girls coach Angie Honey.

“I joke with her that she can only lose two games this sea­son,” Honey said. “She’s a great as­set to the team and we are very lucky to have her.”

Although Ven­ham is com­pet­i­tive, she doesn’t let the com­pe­ti­tion get to her head.

“She sets the ex­am­ple to the team of what com­pe­ti­tion should look like in a friendly way,” Honey said. Honey also

Ven­ham loves the Arts As­so­ci­a­tion and was in­volved heav­ily in OYS be­fore de­cid­ing to take a year off due to her ex­ten­sive schedule, ac­cord­ing to her mother, Angie Blair.

“She wants to try out for the bas­ket­ball team, the vol­ley­ball team, and she wants to play golf,” Angie Blair said. “She wants to do it all.”

Doing it all is some­thing she’s been ac­com­plish­ing in ten­nis in re­cent years.

On top of her bar­rage of matches, prac­tices, and tour­na­ments, she has found her­self train­ing and throw­ing foot­balls with the Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike), iden­ti­cal twins dubbed by many as the best dou­bles tan­dem in the his­tory of ten­nis, and train­ing with the nu­mer­ous col­lege and col­lege coaches she’s en­coun­tered through the last few years.

No mat­ter what it is, Vehnam has her mind set on doing ev­ery­thing she pos­si­bly can in the world of ten­nis. De­spite all the prac­tices, tour­na­ments and con­stantly be­ing on the go, Ven­ham re­tains a smile on her face, even through the com­pet­i­tive­ness that ten­nis brings out.

She is known to be one of the only girls at her USTA tour­na­ments who will talk and make friends with ev­ery­one while no­body else re­ally talk to each other.

“Ten­nis is com­pet­i­tive, es­pe­cially with the girls,” said Angie Blair. “The par­ents and the ath- letes don’t talk, but Abbey will some­how know ev­ery­one there by the end of the tour­na­ment.”

Ven­ham’s hard work, strong de­ter­mi­na­tion, and friendly de­meanor are all at­tributes that she hopes will take her to the next level of com­pe­ti­tion. But no mat­ter what the fu­ture holds, she seems bound to find suc­cess, thanks to her work ethic and de­sire to ex­cel.

“I hope­fully want to play for UGA,” Ven­ham said. “That’s kind of tall or­der, but that would be so cool.”

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Eastside fresh­man Abbey Grace Ven­ham is one of the state’s top young high school ten­nis play­ers.

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