Trent Findley dutifully showed up at the Jacksonville State University tennis courts on a cool, windy Tuesday.
The senior Pleasant Valley tennis player wasn’t here for his preferred reason. The courts were vacant, except for him, a photographer and a writer.
No handshakes, just smiles and apologies between people feeling impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. A near-30-minute photo shoot and interview, conducted in a car and not the normal school setting, would conclude with a friendly elbow bump.
School was closed. The distinct possibility that Findley has played his final high school tennis match before April Fools Day hangs over the moment.
There’s lots to say about Findley’s high school career. He was a member of Pleasant Valley’s first tennis team to qualify for state. He’s qualified for state twice and has served two years as the team’s captain. He’s the first Raider to reach the finals of Calhoun County and sectional tournaments.
He entered his senior season with high hopes, but the Raiders played one match before COVID-19 plunged the world into a global pandemic and the United States into a national emergency.
With school and school-sponsored sports suspended in Alabama, Findley is a tall young man with a racket, ball and no match. It was all part of the conversation when he sat down for an in-car interview to volley 10 questions with Anniston Star Sports Writer Joe Medley:
Question: Right off the top, what’s your reaction to all that’s happening?
Answer: I think we need to take precautions. It’s better to overprepare than underprepare.
Q: The Alabama High School Athletic Association could cancel the rest of your senior season. How has that thought settled on you?
A: It’s sad. It’s real sad to think about not being able to play the entire tennis season or do the rest of the stuff that I’m supposed to do my senior year, but it’s happened before, to other seniors. (After the interview was conducted, the Alabama Department of Education announced that all spring sports are called off.)
Q: To what are you referring?
A: They sent out an article, the teachers did the other day, about when Hurricane Katrina came through. It was some guy, now, talking about how he lost his senior year, so I guess we’re not the first.
Q: What did you and your teammates believe could be this year?
A: We knew Donoho was going to be tough to beat in sectionals, but I think we could at least come in second and go to the state tournament this year and, possibly, come in first.
Q: What’s your take on decisions that have caused everything to stop?
A: Some people are going overboard, like, buying all of the toilet paper and everything, but it’s good to have these precautions. It’s not going to necessarily affect me or you or other people, but, maybe, elderly people, and we don’t need to be spreading it to them. We see my grandparents real often. They live, maybe, two minutes from us, and we go down there all the time.
Q: What are three things you couldn't live without?
A: My family. I couldn’t live without them. My Bible, definitely. That’s a big part of who I am, and my friends. You can’t go to family about some things, but you can always go to friends.
Q: What's your favorite holiday?
A: Thanksgiving, because everybody’s there, and you’re just all talking and having a good time. My grandmother always makes sweet potato casserole. That’s by far my favorite, that and her pecan pie.
Q: What’s something you would like to be better at?
A: I’ve always wished I could play guitar. I think it would be cool to be a country music singer, which that goes back to me wanting to play guitar. I’m a big Eric Church guy.
Q: Football has touchdown celebrations. Should tennis have something for kills at the net?
A: You can give a little fist pump, or something, but tennis is supposed to be a quiet sport. Sometimes, you’ve just got let go, if you get too good of a shot.
Q: Who on your team is most likely to become famous one day?
A: There’s a girl named Rileigh Kirsch. She’s going to be this chemistry stuff, so probably her. She’ll find a cure for a disease or something.