In chess, the ability to see multiple moves ahead and read your opponent is critical.
The same can be said in tennis. And it’s that type of skill set that has led New York City native Cal Wider to be successful in both. Wider is a nationally ranked tennis player who was once also a nationally ranked chess player.
“I found that chess is a lot about thinking ahead, anticipating what your opponent is going to do and understanding how to counter their moves, which is similar to tennis,” said Wider. “In tennis, a huge part of the game is anticipation, and you have that in chess too. The ability to turn a defensive situation into an offensive one, like if you have a running forehand and you’re stretched out on the court, is needed in both sports.”
Wider attends Professional Children’s School, an independent day school in NYC that provides flexible scheduling options to accommodate top athletes to ensure they don’t fall behind academically while not interfering with the training and traveling required of a top junior tennis player.
"Professional Children's School balances a challenging and engaging, college prep academic program with a flexible school schedule and distance learning options so that motivated students, like Cal, don't need to choose between their tennis training & tournaments and a great education,” said Director of Admissions Shari Honig.
“Professional Children’s School is very flexible. All the classes are recorded so I don’t miss anything or fall behind if I miss a class,” says Wider. “When classes are in person, you’re able to meet with the teachers whenever you need to, and when you have to travel, they are accessible so you can reach out to them, and they help make sure you are up to date and not falling behind. That helps a lot when you’re traveling for tournaments, so it’s been great.”
Wider played both chess and tennis, as well as baseball, growing up but stopped playing chess and baseball as he continued to get older so he could focus primarily on his tennis, a sport he showed great promise in. And that decision has proven to be a good one as Wider has climbed to inside the Top 10 of the New York rankings on TennisRecruiting.net and has established himself as a five-star recruit.
“I think the strength of my game is probably my forehand,” he said. “I’m a lefty, and so that can be tricky for some opponents. In my training now I’m really working on my backhand and trying to sharpen that shot. I just want to continue focusing on my training, maintain my recovery from an injury and just continue to get better.”
That injury sidelined for a lot of time last year. The pandemic shutting down most tournaments across the country allowed Wider to really lock in on his training. As tournaments have begun to come back little by little, Wider continues to train hard.
“I was training and recovering, and working hard to come back at the same time,” said Wider. “More recently, the tournament situation has been a little tough due to the pandemic. I haven’t been able to play many national tournaments, but I have been playing UTR events, which I hadn’t done in the past. They’re high level events so it’s been good for me.”
When he first worked his way back from the injury, Wider was competing in some lower level tournaments to get his legs back under him again, and just to get the experience of match play once again. It was an important period for him as Wider was successful in those events which helped reassure that his work had paid off.
“It’s been great to get some matches in again,” he said. “From a physical standpoint, I’m feeling great. I now feel significantly stronger and faster than before the pandemic. I’m now focused on continuing to improve and striving to get to the next level.”
As we move forward through 2021, more tournaments will open up again and junior tennis will most likely return to normal, which means more traveling to events for Wider.
When Wider is not playing tennis, you can probably find him watching a movie. Wider is a huge fan of film, especially film history, and cites his favorite actor as Jack Nicholson and favorite all-time film as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
“I’m a big movie buff, I really enjoy film,” said Wider. “My dad is actually a film producer and director, so I’ve always enjoyed the entertainment industry. I’m a huge fan of movie history. I love watching old films, and I spend a lot of time doing that.”
Now stronger than ever and with more high-level tournaments returning to the junior circuit, he spends much of his time on the tennis court once again, and 2021 is setting up to be a big year for Wider.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org