Sports Person of the Week
Kagan Courts Success with the Indians
Alex Kagan finished with a record of 16-3 while playing the No. 2 singles position for the Guilford boys’ tennis team this spring. (Photo courtesy of Alex Kagan )
Growing up, Alex Kagan was a baseball player. Alex was always looking for ways to stay in shape during the offseason and, when he was 10, he began playing tennis at the Guilford Racquet & Swim Club and the Madison Racquet & Swim Club. Alex soon discovered that he had found a new passion.
“When I started picking up tennis, I wasn’t thinking I’d go to it over baseball, but I decided to switch at the end of 8th grade. Through the clubs, we entered some tournaments, and I realized I was pretty good at it,” says Alex, who recently finished his junior year at Guilford High School. “I love being on the court all by myself, the constant action you get from every point, the competition, and grinding and coming back. You have to be mentally tough.”
Alex’s switch turned out to be a successful one as he promptly earned a spot in the lineup with the Guilford boys’ tennis team in his freshman year. Alex, who alternated between the No. 2, 3, and 4 singles positions, says that he felt “honored to start as a freshman.” Last year, Alex played the majority of his matches at No. 2 singles for the Indians.
This season, Alex had an outstanding junior campaign in which he went 16-3 as Guilford’s No. 2 singles player. Alex earned All-SCC honors and also made the New Haven Register’s All-Area Team by virtue of his performance.
“Our season went very well as a team and, personally, I only lost one regular-season match and two playoff matches,” Alex says. “My biggest memory from the season was beating Amity as a team for the first time in maybe 40 years.”
Alex helped Guilford have a great campaign that saw the squad notch a record of 15-4 this spring. The Indians also reached the SCC semifinals and finished in a tie for fifth place at the Class L State Championship.
Alex has high hopes for what he and his team can achieve next year. Head Coach Rob Messer says that he’s eager to see how Alex performs as a senior.
“I predict he will come out with what will be an unforgettable senior year next season,” says Messer. “Alex is the kind of player everyone wants on their team. He brings 100 percent every day, whether it is a big match or an early season practice. He gives everything he has on every point and is a fantastic role model for younger players in that regard.”
“Since Alex is such a student of the game, he is constantly helping other players break down their strokes or helping them analyze their match,” Messer continues. “He is the ultimate player coach and will thrive as a co-captain next season.”
Alex has gained experience on the court by helping other players over the years. During his freshman season, he joined the Guilford Racquet & Swim Club’s staff as a junior pro, coaching 4 to 12 year-olds.
Alex has two younger sisters, one of which plays tennis, and he’s been helping her with her game, too. Also, every spring since his freshman year, Alex has volunteered in the Buddy Tennis program, where he works as a peer mentor with athletes who have special needs.
“Buddy Tennis is really rewarding,” says Alex, who is an honor roll student and part of the chorus at Guilford, as well as a member of the Salty Youth Group for Temple Beth Tikvah. “I enjoy teaching the youth how to play tennis. It makes me a better tennis player, as well.”
In addition to working as a junior pro, Alex works with coaches throughout the state in order to find challenging matchups to play during the offseason. Alex also sharpens his skills by playing against his good friend Gianni Esposito, who was Guilford’s No. 1 singles player this year.
“I wanted to get better and improve my game to compete for the No. 1 spot. Having Gianni to compete with makes me a better person and player,” Alex says. “We push each other, but are very friendly.”
Alex feels grateful for all the coaches who’ve helped him throughout his career. Along with his coaches in Guilford and Madison, Alex has spent time playing at a club in Rocky Hill and working with other private coaches and trainers. Alex also appreciates that his parents have supported him every step of the way.
“I play year-round and have worked with multiple coaches to get better throughout the year, and both of my parents are really supportive of me and dedicated and help me out,” says Alex, who hopes to play tennis at the college level. “To be a top player, you can’t just play in that season. When that season comes, you’ve got to be polished and ready to win. You can’t be dusting off the rust from not playing six or seven months.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .