Gig Harbor senior Joyce Park has been the team’s top tennis player since she stepped onto campus her freshman year, saddled with pressure and expectations from the beginning.
This year, she wants to make tennis more fun.
In her final high school season, Joyce is switching from playing singles to playing doubles, alongside junior Allie Ivester. She approached new coach Dave Millard before spring practice got underway, requesting the switch.
“I really wanted to play doubles because it’s so nice to have a partner out there on the court,” Park said. “Playing singles is a really hard mental game. You’re out there by yourself. You don’t really have anyone else you can talk to except yourself. That’s kind of the downside. I really wanted to experience having a partner on the court, having someone else to talk to. I think it’ll make my last year a lot more fun.”
Ivester, more of a bubbly, high-energy personality, is the perfect foil to Park, who can sometimes be too self-critical, despite her clear, obvious talent on the court.
“I’m usually by myself, so there’s nothing exactly exciting me or motivating me,” Park said. “But she’s like that extra voice that’s there. With every point, she’s always there. She has so much energy. I do get down on myself a lot, which is difficult. Having her there is just positive reinforcement. It keeps me in the mindset of just shaking it off. It’s nice to have someone there telling me that rather than having to just internally fight with myself.”
As far as tennis is concerned, the pairing works well, also, as Park prefers the forehand side and Ivester works well on the backhand side.
“And she’s really aggressive at the net,” Park said.
Millard was fully on board with Park’s decision to play doubles.
“There’s a lot of stress that comes playing singles,” Millard said. “You’re carrying all the weight on your shoulders. You’re constantly trying to hold that position and you’re playing against some of the top girls in the state and in the country. So there’s a lot of pressure with that and the spotlight is on you a lot of the time. So with this one, she can have more fun, play with somebody else. I think they’re a good partnership.”
Ivester, who played doubles with her older sister Gracie last year, is excited Park is teaming up with her.
“She’s really easy to play with,” Ivester said. “I think we’re both pretty calm, collected people. There’s never any conflict between us. We have a lot of trust in each other. I think it’ll be really fun, no matter what. I hope we can go pretty far. It’ll be interesting. I’ve never had experience playing at a really high level. There’s definitely pressure to play well for her.”
Ivester said Park’s addition should push her to be her best.
“She’s just really good,” Ivester said. “I just feel like I need to step up. It gives me confidence to be around her. I have to match that effort.”
Park said she’s hopeful this year will be the best season of her high school career.
“I don’t want either of us to be stressing about it,” Park said. “It’d be really nice if we could go into the offseason and go to districts together. I think that’d be a really fun experience. I’m hoping we can make it there. I think we can if we keep working at it, keep practicing.”