Sydney Bennett of Jenison - Sportsmanship Personified

One of the most important criteria for student athletes who appear in this column is sportsmanship. In a day when temper tantrums from athletes is hardly a surprise, we like to reward student athletes who exhibit good sportsmanship. In addition to being a great tennis player, Jenison’s Sydney Bennett is the personification of good sportsmanship.
Bennett is playing first singles for the Wildcats, which is quite an achievement for a sophomore. What makes her achievement even more remarkable is the fact that none of her family are tennis players. Sydney started playing the game when she was nine and some friends asked if she wanted to learn. When we asked Bennett what she like the most about the sport, her answer was short and to the point: Everything.
The word “everything” came into the conversation about Sydney with 35 year veteran Wildcat coach Tom Leyrer. According to Leyrer, one of the best parts of Bennett’s game is that she hits “everything” back. If she makes a mistake, she doesn’t waste time or energy getting rattled but moves on to the next point. He said “her whole game is her strength” and then went on to commend Sydney for the way she never gives up in a match.
These words were echoed by her father, Dan. He described how his daughter never gets upset during match play. She concentrates on every stroke of her opponents and makes subtle adjustments to her game – all the while sending the ball back to the other side of the net over and over again.
Coach Leyrer appreciates how “steady” Sydney is – both as a player and as a person. In an individual sport like tennis, having a consistent mental attitude is almost as important as having good groundstrokes. Bennett is always positive and she demonstrates her team spirit by being attentive to her teammates. She is dedicated to the team and showed it last season when she had some oral surgery done on a school day. Instead of going home to recover in bed, she returned to school because she did not want to miss the tennis match scheduled that afternoon.
Does all this mean Sydney Bennett is winning every match she plays? Not by any stretch. As a freshman, she played in the number three singles position and her record last year was 14-13, so she knows what it means to lose. This is where the sportsmanship becomes evident. Sydney made such an impression on both players and coaches from opposing teams last year that many of them made comments to Coach Leyrer. Having so much positive feedback coming from opponents inspired Leyrer to create a new award to be given out at the end of the year recognizing the Jenison student who demonstrated Outstanding Sportsmanship during the year. As you have guessed, the award went to Sydney last year. Her parents were incredibly proud and Sydney reported being “totally surprised” when she received the award – she had no idea it was coming.
Sydney is the oldest of Dan and Christin Bennett’s three children. Her sister Kelsey is an eighth grader and brother Ryan is in the sixth grade. Sydney has always been athletic and if it were not for the schedule change in girls sports that forced her to chose a spring sport, she would no doubt be racking up points for the Wildcats as forward on the soccer team.
In addition to her athletic pursuits, Sydney is a musician and a straight A student. She started playing the viola in the fifth grade and has been a member of the school orchestra ever since. Her dad told us that Sydney really works to maintain her excellent grades in school. He related that she is very focused and has always done her schoolwork without any prompting from her parents. Sydney is really enjoying her Spanish class these days. Dan reported that he enjoys the open communication with his oldest child. She invited 21 friends over for dinner before the homecoming dance last fall and dad was more than willing to cook up London broil and chicken for what he described as “a very well behaved group of kids”. Bennett is as steady with her friends as she is on the tennis courts.
“Everyone knows they can approach her any day and she will be the same,” Dan Bennett said. “She is about as far from being self centered as a person can get.”
It is noteworthy that Sydney and her teammates practice their sport at five in the morning three days a week at Ramblewood. She gets out of bed at 3:45 am on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday to practice, but she did admit that she naps when she gets home from school in the afternoon.
Sydney Bennett’s demonstration of steady behavior on and off the court coupled with her exemplary sportsmanship certainly make her worthy of commendation. Great work, Sydney – keep it up.
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