We recently had the chance to sit down with Amherst Regional High School senior Allison McCann, Western Massachusetts 2015 Girls Tennis Player of the Year, who will be heading to Dartmouth for college this Fall.
Full name: Allison Maria McCann
Birthday: April 1 (coming right up!)
How long have you been playing tennis? I started when I was 5 or 6, just playing with my family. My dad had been a tennis player for a long time and my mom started when she met my dad, so they were both tennis players. I started taking lessons when I was around 7.
Do you play other sports? I played soccer up until high school, and I play rec basketball, which is a lot of fun.
I hear you’re heading to Dartmouth College in the Fall? Yes, I’m going to Dartmouth. The coach there was my team’s coach for the national teams in California, so I know I really like working with him and I’m very excited to be there.
You’ve done an impressive job of balancing school and tennis! It’s not easy! A lot of the girls I play attend private schools where they can take time off for tennis, or don’t go to school at all. But I’ve always balanced the two. I play every day after school; it’s just my pattern. It’s really busy but I love it.
How did it feel being named Player of the Year for Western Massachusetts? Exciting! I worked hard all year, so it was a thrill to be recognized that way and to have my name up on the awards board at my school.
Do you have a busy summer planned? Yes! Last summer I went to the National Team Championships, where the top seven girls from each region compete against each other, and I’m going to go again this year. It’s really fun. It’s just the players and one assigned coach per team. I’m also going to the National Hard Courts in California, the High School Tennis Championship at Harvard, and a couple tournaments close to home: the New England Sectionals at Amherst College and the New England Hard Courts at UMass. I’m looking forward to them all!
What do you love about tennis? Well, first and foremost I really like competing! It’s hard because it’s an individual sport, but that’s also what I like about it. I love playing on a team too, but I like being by myself because it’s made me become a lot stronger and also shown me the importance of being optimistic. The mental side is a really big part of the game. It’s super important not to be nervous or upset, and it’s been great for learning to cope with nerves.
What do you do to combat nerves? Deep breaths really help, also a strong focus on the rhythm of your own game.
Do you prefer playing people you’ve played before or new opponents? At New England tournaments, we’ve all been playing each other for a long time, which can be fun because we know one another’s style of play. But it’s even more fun going to nationals and playing new people, or people I don’t see as often.
Are you devoted to a particular racquet? I’ve just recently switched from Babolat Aero Pro Drive to a Wilson Pro Staff. I have them strung hybrid, synthetic gut one way and a harder string the other way.
What kind of courts do you prefer? Hard courts are my favorite. I think I play better indoors, but I love playing outdoors more.
Anything special you take with you when you pack for tournaments? I usually travel with 4 racquets, three current and one fall-back. Towels, one for use and a smaller one that’s like my good luck charm; I’ve had it forever. Extra grips . . . you know the normal kind of stuff. I usually bring gatorade chews and Craisins, which I love, and I might eat a banana before a match.
Favorite soundtrack? Depends on the season and activity, and of course my mood . . . in the summer I like country and pop music. When I’m relaxing, I listen to Hozier, James Bay, and alternative stuff. Pump up music before a match will be more like Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, Logic.
Advice to a 6-yr old just starting out? Have fun with it! No need to be too intense right at the start. I’ve seen some parents who are really ambitious for their kids and put a lot of pressure on them when they’re just little kids and I think it can spoil the fun of the game. I’ve worked as an instructor at a tennis camp during summers, and this Fall I helped my mother teach an intramural program at the Amherst Regional Middle School; I love teaching and I love seeing new players get started.
Your older sister is also a great tennis player. Does it feel weird playing your sister in tournaments? Well, I really know her style and I love playing with her. It was definitely strange playing her twice at Western Mass finals last year, though. She beat me there . . . but since then I’ve also been able to beat her!
How has it been working with the Carrington Tennis crew? They’re great coaches. I really like the way they teach and I love the way that they’ve improved my game.
How has your game evolved? Rather than being a baseliner and just spinning the ball in, I’ve gotten a lot more aggressive. I look forward to how my game will continue to evolve, since tennis is a game I intend to play my whole life long.
Do you have any particular tennis role models? I really like Nadal and Federer and Serena. Also, Dominika Cibulkova, from Slovenia. She’s short and small, like me, so I especially like watching her play.
Can you talk about the role tennis has played in your life? Without tennis my life would be completely different. It’s helped make me who I am; it’s made me so much more disciplined and determined and better at focusing in all circumstances. Also, from tennis I’ve learned how important mental control is — how crucial is is to stay optimistic and confident. And of course it’s been a constant lesson in time management, which is an important part of anything in life.
Thank you, Allison!! We wish you lots of success this summer and at Dartmouth!