Every athlete has a facet of the game they continually focus on improving.
For Seymour tennis player Karen Dringenburg, getting mentally prepared is important for her.
“The part of tennis I try to work on the most is mental toughness,” Dringenburg said. “At the beginning if I would lose a point really bad, then the next two points I would be so distressed on how bad I did on that point.
“So in tennis if you do really bad on one point, you just have to shake it off and realize the next point is mine or something just to get yourself calm. You can’t dwell if you lose one point. It has to be all about what you’re going to do the next point, not what you did wrong.
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For Dringenburg, tennis has a range of feelings.
“Tennis, I feel, is a roller coaster of emotions,” Dringenburg said. “You can be down one point, and the next point you’re up and winning. It’s a big thing in doubles because you’re depending on your partner. If you are getting down then your partner has to help pick you up. Both of you have to stay mentally tough. That’s why playing together is a big, key factor.”
Dringenburg began playing tennis in sixth grade, then played two years at the middle school and is beginning her fourth season in the Owls’ varsity lineup.
She played doubles in seventh grade, moved to singles her eighth-grade season, then moved back to doubles as a freshman.
“In playing No. 1 doubles all three years now I know everyone I’m playing, and they remember me,” Dringenburg said. “We talk a lot and we’ll say, ‘How did you do against so and so?’”
Her doubles partner last year was Emma Woods. Woods has a shoulder injury and will miss the first part of this season.
“I’m not against playing singles, but I like doubles,” Dringenburg said. “I like the part that you have to have chemistry with your partner. In the beginning Emma and I weren’t as good as we were at the end. It is an ongoing thing that you have to work on.”
One of the strongest parts of Dringenburg’s game is her net play.
“Being at the net is one of my key points,” Dringenburg said. “That is where I want to win points. I like to get the volleys in general. You have to have quick reflexes, good hand-eye coordination.”
She said you can learn a lot about your opponent during warm-ups.
“Warm-ups are definitely very important,” Dringenburg said. “You can figure out if you’ve got lefties, and if they play on the backhand side than that is definitely a strong point, and you figure out where their weaknesses are, and that’s where I attack. If they have a strong forehand I’m going to serve to their backhand a lot.”
In tennis, it’s important to play year-round to be successful.
Dringenburg has taken lessons since seventh grade, playing indoors at Tipton Lakes in the winter.
“It has definitely helped tremendously,” Dringenburg said. “If you only take one lesson a week it doesn’t really help. You have to be out playing and practice what you have learned. That is when you are successful.”
In the spring, unruly weather can play suit on the court.
“Wind is a big factor,” Dringenburg said. “Let’s say I’m hitting my backhand and the wind is blowing, the ball can bounce up and hit 4 or 5 feet away from you, so it’s really all about footwork. You really have to prepare for it.”
Dringenburg said that while it is nice to win the first set, it can go either way.
“If you’ve got a lot of momentum after winning the first set, then that’s huge. If it’s one of those close matches that can go either way, then say if you do lose that first set, you can say, ‘Hey, we were with them 5-5; we can come back and get them, and it’s going to go the third set.’ It kind of depends on which side you are on.”
Nate Otte and Jennifer Miller co-coach the Owls girls team.
“I think it’s nice,” Dringenburg said. “They both have their knowledge of tennis. One is like a motivator, and the other is kind of like a teacher. Together they make a good coaching staff.”
Parents: Dean and Kim Dringenburg
Sports: Tennis 4 years, volleyball 2 years, basketball 1 year, boys tennis manager 2 years
Athletic highlights: Helped Owls win sectionals past three years; 2013-14 team MVP, 2014 captain, all-conference, all district, second-team all-state
Favorite courts: Brown County, Bloomington North
Schedule: “Our coaches are all about being ready to go that first week. We open against Jeffersonville and Columbus North, and then we have that big tournament (at Bloomington North). This is a new tournament for us. We’ve got a lot of people with a lot of experience.”
Attending SHS: “I love it here. Seymour is great, and they have a lot of opportunities for you. I’m in eight or nine classes, I’m definitely busy. I’m FFA president and help on the farm. We have a student athletic board, and it’s fun talking to athletes from other sports.”
Plans after high school: Attend Western Kentucky University, study ag-business
Favorite food: Green beans
Favorite TV show: “Duck Dynasty”
Favorite singer: George Strait
Favorite movie: “8 Seconds”
Favorite athlete: Rafael Nadal
Favorite team: Purdue Boilermakers
Favorite book: “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
Favorite quote: “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.”