When he was five years old, Nicholas Steiglehner picked up a racket for the first time, hitting around a few nerf balls before advancing to regular tennis balls.
“My dad introduced me to tennis. He taught me the basics at a young age and still helps coach me today,” said Steiglehner. “He’s a great role model and I look up to him. He helped to create my love for tennis.”
He played a multitude of sports growing up including soccer, basketball and baseball. Steiglehner was a very good pitcher and also played some third base. But after making the travel baseball team he tried out for, the commitment of practices everyday and multiple games on the weekend became too much to balance alongside his tennis, and he made the decision to fully commit to tennis.
“I liked tennis more and decided I would rather spend my time playing competitive tennis instead of baseball,” said Steiglehner. “That’s when I really knew tennis was what I wanted to pursue.”
Fast forward and Steiglehner is now preparing for his freshman year at Friends Seminary High School in Manhattan. As an eighth grader last year, he played in the first singles spot for the varsity team.
“It was a great experience and it was fun to be a member of the team,” he says. “It was also special for me because I became friends with upperclassmen, kids I never thought I would meet let alone befriend!”
As he prepares for his freshman year, Steiglehner has been putting in a lot of work to improve his game. He spends his time training at Roosevelt Island Racquet Club, the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, and the Thorsen Academy all of which provide a great environment for tennis players to grow.
“I have known Javier [Luna] and Mr. [Gordon] Kent at Roosevelt Island for a couple of years now. They are great,” said Steiglehner. “They have a great facility that is only a tram ride away from my home.” Each place offers me the flexibility to work on specific parts of my game and to compete against a variety of players and styles. The coaches are
thoughtful, understand the game well and know what it takes to win. They push me to be my best.”
Steiglehner tries to work with a number of different people and at different locations to create a well-rounded game for himself.
“As a developing player, finding the right mix of coaching chemistry, teaching skills, access to court time and an appropriate commute from home at the right cost is a complex equation,” he said. “Finding people who really care about my development as a person and player is very important for me. For these reasons I play at a few different places to help different facets of my development.”
Those reasons and challenges are ones faced by many top junior players growing up in New York City, and Steiglehner is no exception.
“During the school year it’s hard to find time to practice when leaving home at 7:00 a.m. and getting home at 4:00 p.m. with a full day of class and homework. Given the lack of easily accessible courts, I always have to be planning days ahead to get a court, or leaving hours before my start time in a tournament, or playing really late at night.
It is one of the hardest places to play tennis and get good at it as a young person. But playing in New York City with limited and expensive resources forces you to make each minute of practice court time count. It also makes you stay focused. There are a lot of great players here—and also a lot of great former players who built their game here, so I can learn from them as well.”
Steiglehner’s work ethic is evident in his development as a player, and he will continue to work on his game, trying to improve on all aspects of it. He has wins against a number of players ranked in the top 50 nationally and recently helped lead his team to a victory at the Zonal championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“My goal is continue to grow as a player and become as good as I can possibly be,” said Steiglehner. “Tennis is teaching me a lot about myself, others and the world. I love it.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org