| By Brian Coleman
Photo courtesy of Getty Images

 

The last few months have seen us all adapt to a new normal, altering the way we typically do almost everything, including going grocery shopping, hanging out with friends and getting an education.

For students and teachers alike, transitioning from being in a physical classroom to a virtual one can be a difficult one. But for students at Dwight Global Online School, the online program of Dwight School based in New York City, no transition was required. 

Dwight School has a rich history as a leading educator dating back nearly 150 years, and in 2014, it launched Dwight Global, which has become a top destination for the country’s highly ranked junior tennis players looking for strong academics. 

Two of those players reside right here in the tri-state area: Cooper Williams and Evan Wen. Both are among the top in the country in their respective age groups, and have found success both on and off the court after choosing Dwight Global for their education.

Williams is a rising freshman from Greenwich, CT, who is the top-ranked player in the nation, according to TennisRecruiting.net. He just finished his second year in Dwight’s online program, and has compiled fantastic results in tournaments over the last year, including competing in ITF events in Austria, Belgium and Sweden in early 2020.



 

For someone who travels that far and for long periods of time during the school year, it’s imperative to have an academic program that fits your schedule.

“I used to commute to a private school in New York City. But as I started getting older and my tennis continued to get better, I started playing more tournaments that would be five days long as opposed to three days — it just wasn’t possible anymore,” said Williams. “I was accepted by Dwight and they have done a fantastic job of accommodating me, especially when I started playing internationally. I’m able to reach out to my teachers at any time. There’s usually a time difference, so they allow me to switch my class times, if necessary. It’s just a really great program that is designed for every student.”

Wen, a rising junior and Morristown, NJ, native, echoed those sentiments. Wen is currently ranked 10th nationally and third in New Jersey, according to TennisRecruiting.net, and competed in multiple ITF events in Mexico earlier this year.

“Dwight Global allows you to reach out with times that you are available for classes and correlate those times with the teacher’s availability,” said Wen, who wrapped up his third year at Dwight this spring. “The scheduling is more attuned to when you’re available, as opposed to a strict schedule that the school puts in place.

Also, when you have to travel to a tournament, the teachers are understanding of the fact that you may need more time. There’s a chance you’ll fall behind and they help you work your way back into it. The teachers are so responsive; they’re just always so helpful and accommodating.”

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, schools and teachers everywhere were forced to adapt their normal in-class curriculum to a virtual one. It was a difficult task for most, but because of Dwight School’s built-in structure and platform online, this was not an issue for Dwight Global students and teachers.

“I spoke to my teachers twice a day during the pandemic,” said Williams. “In general, the teachers are amazing and they make sure your priorities are their priorities.”

It’s been a strange few months for everyone; for two high-level tennis players, who are used to constant traveling and competing in tournaments on a weekly basis, the lack of matches has been a unique experience. But both have made sure to maintain their training during this mandated hiatus to ensure they will be ready when matches do return.

Wen has established a core group of players, all highly ranked, to hit with during the pandemic — the sort of competition that forces you to improve your game.

“This year, I found a really good home at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. They’ve been so helpful and I was starting to feel confident with my game again. Then the quarantine hit and I wasn’t able to see the coaches I had been working with,” said Wen. “But I’m extremely lucky, because I and three other players, guys in the Top 10 in the nation, all live within 30 minutes of each other in New Jersey. We work it out so we sometimes hit one-on-one. If all four of us can get together, we play doubles. It’s been great getting to play against this level of competition daily and I’ve been able to hone my skills working with these guys. We’re all high-level players, we all want to get better, and we’re all out here super-focused on the same goal.”

For Williams, despite indoor sites being shut down, a court close enough to home enabled him to continue playing.

“It’s in a reclusive area and we have full access to it,” he said. “I’ve been playing every day and making sure I’m doing my fitness as well. The last few months I’ve tried to keep everything as normal as possible: training the same amount, getting the same amount of sleep, continuing to do fitness, etc. I’m using this time to develop weapons. It’s a great time to start working on things, and focusing on the parts of my game that have room for improvement.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on my inside-out forehand — I love that shot. My forehand is one of my better shots, but I’ve been working on getting around the ball more and doing different games and drills to emphasize that. I’ve also done a lot of serve-plus-one drills. I like playing that style with quick points, dictating with my forehand and my serve. So just a few small areas that I want to add to my game have been my main focus.”

In May, Williams and his sisters, Nathalie and Naomi, made their way south to continue their training, as they typically do every summer.

As we approach the fall, it is still uncertain whether or not students will be going back to physical classrooms this coming school year. But that is not an issue for students who attend Dwight Global Online School, who won’t miss a beat when the school year starts up again.

Two of the best players in their respective age groups have chosen Dwight for their education, both for its highly regarded academic programs, as well as its ability to complement the intense training and tournament schedules required to reach the level each player is aspiring to. Dwight Global also has a strong track record with college placements. For example, a recent Dwight Global graduate and Princeton student, Karl Poling, was named the 2019 Ivy League Men’s Tennis Rookie of the Year.

“Dwight Global is the best program for top junior tennis players who want to experience a world-class education,” said Dwight School Vice Chancellor and Captain of the 1994 Columbia University Ivy League Championship Tennis Team Dr. Blake Spahn. “Dwight Global allows them to have the academic experience of a New York City private school, while also providing the flexibility they need to achieve their goals in tennis. I wish we had this program at Dwight when I was in high school!"

 

 

Brian Coleman

 Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com