Life Lessons along the Baseline – September 2020 Lance Beheler
by: Gene Marrano
Lance Beheler is headed to Roanoke College this fall and plans to play tennis for the NCAA Division III school while pursing his studies. He’s already played team tennis for 7 years – all four years at Cave Spring High School and three before that in middle school. He was the number one-ranked singles player for the Knights all four years in high school, and part of the number one-ranked doubles team as junior and senior. Doubles is “less nerve-wracking … and fun too,” although singles (playing one on one versus an opponent) is Beheler’s bread-and-butter.
“They’re planning to have a spring season,” he says of his future Maroons squad, not sure if there will be any practice sessions this Fall at Roanoke College due to COVID-19 safety precautions. Lance’s high school senior year on the courts was canceled after a few early scrimmages as schools went virtual.
His start in tennis? Beheler says it came in kindergarten and was also virtual – on the Nintendo Wii game. “[After that] I wanted to play tennis.” Lance first honed his skills at Sun Tennis in southwest Roanoke County and since 5th grade has taken lessons at Hunting Hills Country Club, where John Barker is the head pro. (You don’t have to be a HVCC member to take lessons there.)
“You have to be mentally strong and learn from mistakes – you can’t dwell on them, you have to move on,” are some of the life takeaways Beheler has gleaned from tennis. “Sometimes when I was younger, I had a difficult time with that. I would beat myself up about a mistake.”
He recommends tennis as a great sport for parents to expose their young children to, also noting there is “no great strain on the body. You see a lot of older people playing; it’s a lifelong sport.” Beheler played baseball and basketball when he was younger but tennis “was much more enjoyable for me.” The sport is a family affair as well: his kid sister Josie, a year younger, was a member of Cave Spring High School’s state championship team as a freshman. “She probably started around third grade.” (His father coaches baseball at Cave Spring.)
John Barker has been mentoring Beheler at Hunting Hills CC since the 5th grade: “he’s very coachable – and he’s right, when Lance was young, he had a temper. Not so much towards other players, he was too hard on himself. That was the hardest thing [to deal with]. He always had the talent – he’s a completely different person on the court [now].”
Barker had seen his young protégé meltdown a few times in matches before that growth started happening. The physical talent, the hand-eye coordination necessary to truly become a top-notch tennis player was always there says Barker.
“The thing I worked on most with him was his mental attitude. He turned it around. Tennis [encompasses] a lot of things you have to deal with in life,” which Barker says includes, “making sure you have a routine each day so you can excel.” Lance concurs. “You kind of have to discipline yourself and learn from that – move to the next point and not think [about mistakes] in the back of your head.”
The United States Tennis Association has just restarted local tournament and league play in the Roanoke Valley, which gives players of all ages more opportunities to hone their games. Local “junior bashes” at country clubs in the area also provide competition. Barker is coaching an 8-year-old girl now “that’s going to be exceptional.”
Now says Barker about Beheler, “when he’s on the court you can’t tell if he’s winning or losing.” The proud coach even says Lance’s best playing days on the court may be ahead of him at Roanoke College. “He just keeps getting better and better.”
Lance Beheler urges parents who may have played when they were younger to introduce their children to the tennis racquet and local courts (there are plenty in area parks) if they are so inclined. “If you start at a younger age its always easier to get better as you move along.”