Kendall: It’s less about it healing and more just knowing how to manage it – I actually had a flare up before state this year.
Kendall Schrader’s Tennis Beginnings
Kendall Schrader grew up aspiring to be a collegiate tennis player, maybe even go pro. Supported by her family, it was less a pipe dream and more so just… on the horizon. That is, until an injury blocked the road ahead.
Liz: Initially it was likely she just over did it for the weekend. She’ll take a couple of weeks off and it’ll be fine. Maybe you pulled a muscle and you’ll feel better. And she wasn’t feeling better after three weeks. So then we decided to make some appointments and have it looked at.
Mike: Being a dad I’m like ‘you’re going to be fine, everything will be cool’. And then when the doctor actually said maybe you shouldn’t play tennis, that really hit home. We obviously, as a family, had to come together and figure it out because it has been such a big part of her life.
A back injury, specifically a herniated disc, threatened to disrupt the very identity that Kendall had created. The doctor’s diagnosis, plus the sobering reality of an unknown future, was frightening for the-then 14 year old.
Kendall: It was really scary, I didn’t know how I was going to have any experience on the high school team or play tennis again at all. So I was super nervous after it.
Kendall was suddenly looking at up two years before she could take the court again – just as she was ready to attend Benet Academy for her freshman year.
Hand: She could have packed it in, she could have just said that ‘that’s the way it is and I guess I gotta find something else to do’ and she wasn’t willing to throw in the towel on that.
Battling Through Rehab
Michael Hand is the varsity coach at Benet and saw first hand the resolve shown by Kendall in the month following the diagnosis. Through physical therapy, needling and multiple cortisone shots, Kendall suited up with her teammates in the final meet of her freshman year.
Brian: The serve especially, the forehand, the back hand, there’s a tremendous amount of torque and rotation so without that you really can’t function.
Her personal coach since the age of 7, Brian Page has had the unique perspective of creating a training plan for Kendall. One that allows her back to recover fromthe rigors of tennis.
Brian: Until they found out what it was it was very frustrating for her and me. But then we knew there would come a time that it would be better. So, all you could do during that time was to maintain the best you can.
IHSA State Playoffs
Kendall played her sophomore season with Benet with minimal restriction, ultimately opting to spend her junior year touring on the junior USA circuit.
That brings us to her senior year… and the week of the state meet.
Kendall: I was like ‘this is the worst time to have a flare up but I was able to get it down in two days, so it was fine.
The temporary scare was nothing compared to the fright Kendall, and her doubles partner, Kaitlin Lee, put into their opponents. The Redwings rolled through the state tournament.
The State Win
Running into a pairing they had lost to earlier in the season, Schrader and Lee put the finishing touches on an unbelievable season, becoming the first Benet doubles pairing to win the state title.
Mike: Her strength and the fire that she has is unteachable. She has a passion and a fire in her belly that cannot be taught. Her will to accomplish is unbelievable.
Liz: Kendall is a great player and you can expect good things from her but you didn’t know because of this wild ride and journey where she would wind up. So it was was truly an absolute surprise to have her there and in the finals and win it… it made it all the sweeter.
Hand: She kind of felt, I don’t want to say vindicated, But I think she felt that all the work that she had done had paid off.
Now, with high school in the rear view mirror, Kendall is looking forward to attending Denison University. While the journey provided detours and a change in destination, Schrader aced every test.
Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman