Switching courts, basketball to tennis

As a small boy on a big court, exercise sports science major J.T. Fletcher was just glad to have made the middle school “B” team as a child. But after hours of practice and dedication, Fletcher worked his way up to collegiate basketball and a starter for the Cru.

“I always loved playing,” Fletcher said. “Being able to play at this level was always a goal, and it was exciting to reach that.”

He said a lot of hard work went into making his athletic dreams come true.

“When I was little, I was always known as a gym rat—One of those guys who was the first one in the gym and the last one to leave,” Fletcher said. “I had to learn how to teach myself to be a better athlete because growing up, I was definitely not the best.”

Photo by Rebecca Blizzard, The Bells

Fletcher attended a 5A high school in Deerpark, Texas, in the Houston area, where his coaches pushed him to choose one sport to dedicate himself to. For him, it was basketball.

“I’ve always had a passion for the sport,” he said.

After graduation, Fletcher received a scholarship to play for Wethersfield Junior College. He then transferred to UMHB to play basketball after being scouted by the university’s recruiters.

However, as a senior, Fletcher is stepping away from the sport he loves so much and is walking onto a new court. He joined the Cru’s tennis team this fall.

“It was a tough choice,” he said. “The main reason I made the change is because I am planning for the future.”

At the close of the semester, Fletcher will be six hours short of his undergraduate degree. In January, he can begin studying for his master’s in exercise sports science or exercise physiology, depending on the university he chooses to attend. Fletcher decided to leave the basketball team so he could invest more of his energy into planning for whatever comes his way.

“I am really considering going into the coaching and teaching field,” he said. “I think I could help kids at the high school age and have a good impact on their life, not only teaching them about sports but also life lessons.”

Fletcher is the sixth player to graduate with eligibility remaining.

As a sport’s fanatic, Fletcher loves keeping busy athletically, so joining the tennis team was a perfect fit.

“I’ve always had a secret passion for tennis,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing, so I decided why not. It is less stressful and less time-consuming.”

Fletcher had to spend a lot of time preparing for the season since he was new to the team.

“It was definitely a question of whether I would even make it, so I played a lot this summer against friends who play college tennis,” he said. “They gave me a lot of pointers.”

Fletcher didn’t let his inexperience bother him.

Photo by Jospeh Warren, The Bells

“I used to play off and on growing up, but I never played for the high school team,” he said. “I would play in summer tournaments just for fun whenever I got burned out playing basketball, but I never had any lessons.”

Friend and basketball teammate, junior Tim Lytle, knows Fletcher will work hard to get better.

“He is jumpy and quick, fast and buff,” Lytle said. “He is always working on getting stronger, and that is helpful in tennis.”

Fletcher’s teammates have been willing to offer advice.

“They are an awesome group of guys, and I enjoy being around them,” Fletcher said. “They are more than happy to help me get better and every day teach me something new.”

In turn, basketball head coach Ken Deweese believes Fletcher will be an asset to the tennis team.

“He is a physical fitness and a health nut,” Deweese said. “We, as coaches, like those kind of nuts. He will set a good example for the other guys.”

Tennis head Coach James Cohagan is happy with Fletcher’s progress and his skills.

“He is very coachable, and it’s been fun to work with him,” Cohagan said. “He wants help, and after he gets it, he’ll go out and work on his own. He has good work ethic.”

Tennis practice ended Oct. 15 but will pick up again next semester.

Meanwhile, Fletcher will use this time to keep getting better in the sport, concentrating on his school work and pursuing what he calls a normal college life, which includes hanging out with friends.

But in whatever he chooses to do, short – or long-term, socially or vocationally, he will use the lessons he has learned as a college athlete for four years.

“Being involved in sports gives you many opportunities to grow,” he said. “It teaches you to be dedicated to what you’re doing and to have have a passion for it.

“You definitely learn planning and time management, being able to communicate with others and how to be a leader and a teammate.”

Author: Crystal Donahue

A senior from Lago Vista, Texas, Crystal enjoys hanging out at the lake with friends, eating ice-pops, having conversations over hot chocolate with marshmallows, going on random road-trips and watching Gilmore Girls with her mom. She is double majoring in mass communication/journalism and Spanish. Post graduation, Crystal plans on getting her master's and working abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. Having served in various positions on The Bells, Crystal is now the editor-in-chief. She enjoys feature and sports writing.

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