Caden Sweeney wasn't sure if he would play first or second singles for the Canal Winchester boys tennis team this spring, but even with the season canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the senior has tried to retain as much normalcy as possible.
In addition to finishing his academic requirements, Sweeney makes sure to play a few days per week, usually with teammates Zane Diehl and Greyson Dunbar.
"The social distancing part is tough, but we're quite a ways away from each other," Sweeney said. "I am able to keep myself fit, active and relaxed. It helps me stay focused on everything I need to do, staying healthy and not just staying inside."
That did not surprise coach Mark Chapman, who fresh off coaching the girls basketball team to its first district final appearance since 1982 took over the tennis team to succeed the retired Doug Welsh.
"I texted the guys (before the season was canceled April 20) to make sure they were still getting their work in and his response was, 'Coach, I haven't taken a day off. I've been training every day,'" Chapman said. "It's that kind of thing that stands out to me about him."
Sweeney alternated between singles and doubles as a freshman and played second and third singles the past two seasons, as he and junior Jeremy Irby switched courts behind 2019 graduate Connor Clark.
Anticipating playing first singles or at least splitting time there with Irby, Sweeney concentrated on his serve and backhand entering this season.
"My first serve has some speed to it, but my second serve doesn't have much on it other than spin. As long as I can get the speed on that one up, I will feel pretty good," said Sweeney, who occasionally has played doubles with Irby in United States Tennis Association events. "It's about improving the quality of my shots and improving my placement into the back corners."
Chapman had nine days between the end of the girls basketball season Feb. 29 and the start of tennis practice, and then was able to work with his players for only five days before spring sports were postponed.
Chapman already had some familiarity with the team, as his son, Jake, was entering his senior season.
"It was difficult to have everything shut down right as I was getting to know some of these guys. It's just not the same as seeing guys day in and day out on the court," Chapman said. "(Sweeney) is a vocal kid and he understands the game of tennis very well. He's been a good leader, both with the skill work we've been doing and ... without my leadership, making sure the guys were preparing in case we did have a season.
"He was a talented player in the past, too, definitely one of the better guys and a leader. When you show up and watch a tennis match, you can pick out the good players and the leaders and he is both of those things."
Sweeney plans to attend either Dayton or Ohio State. He is unsure of his major, but is considering computer science, engineering or musical production.
Sweeney recently received Cisco certification through the high school, which allows him to run and command that brand of computer equipment. The classes also taught him how to build and secure a network.
Whatever Sweeney's future holds, he plans to make sure it includes tennis.
"It's definitely something I want to keep doing long after high school," Sweeney said. "I just love the game, the tactics and just meeting different people and playing with them."