For a "skinny" kid, football may not be the best sport to choose. That is the one of the reasons 16-year-old Mitchell Mansell found exuberance in the game of tennis.
Although he loved football, he wanted to avoid injuries and play at a competitive level.
USTA 16 Zone Team Championship
O Where » At Liberty Park and Salt Lake City Swim and Tennis Club
When » Thursday through Monday; play begins daily at 8 a.m. Admission » Free
Ironically, he couldn’t avoid the injury bug while playing tennis. In the last year, he was hurt three times, each stopping him from playing for months.
In February, Mansell participated in the Bloomington Presidents Day tennis tournament in St. George, when he hit his latest setback.
In the middle of a match, he was forced to forfeit because of a torn biceps tendon.
Mansell said he swung and instantly felt the pain shoot into his arm. He said he knew something was wrong, and doctors confirmed that it would take six months to recover.
After four months of intensive rehab, Mansell was back the court. He said the "most painful action" due to the injury was serving.
For the state championships in May, he had to change up his serving style. For the first time, Mansell had serve underhand.
"It’s not normal," he said. "The swing you use for a underhand serve is not something you are accustomed to doing."
While his swing wasn’t normal, winning was. He teamed up with Cheyenne Perry to win the No. 1 doubles title for Brighton High. As a rising junior, Mansell is undefeated in high school tennis matches.
Two months removed from state, Mansell is still not 100 percent and is competing against some of the best national talent in the region for college scholarships and bragging rights.
With the sun blazing down at Liberty Park, Mansell’s mother, Shilane, found a few inches of shade along the tennis fences. She said Mansell had to change his approach slightly at the USTA 16 Zone Team Championships in Salt Lake City. She said he had to find other ways to win like moving his opponent around the court and nailing volleys.
The thing that makes tennis different from most sports is the thing that Mansell likes the most — it’s solitary.
"It’s all on you," said the Sandy native. "You can’t blame a teammate. It’s just you out there, and there are no excuses."
All of his brothers enjoy that aspect of the game. He has two brothers who play tennis — Justin, 19, and Jared, 15 — and one who plays golf‚ Cannon, 15.
Their passion for sports branched from their father, Darren, who played tennis at BYU and the University of Utah. However, Mansell said the decision to play tennis was all on him.
"If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t play," said Mansell. "I do not have any pressure [from my parents] to play."
Throughout the Thursday afternoon match, Mansell looked visibly upset but he continuously talked aloud to himself to reinforce the game plan.
"It gets kind of lonely [on the court]," said Mansell. "There is no one else to talk to. Most of the times, I am positive and try to pump myself up."
Even though he dropped his first match of the tournament, he said "if you are willing to take time and do something, and do it right. You will be good at it."
He will compete in four more matches at the tournament for team points.
The teams with the most points will compete against each other Sunday starting at 8 a.m.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.