BROOKSVILLE — Matthew Cermak, a 16-year-old Springstead High junior. is the latest recipient of the Nature Coast Tennis Foundation's Player of the Month award.
His standout attribute: Attitude.
"Matthew is a good player," Downey said, "but his biggest strength is his attitude — he keeps everyone so lighthearted on the courts."
A member of the Junior Team Tennis squad, under coach Louise Downey's instruction, Cermak has developed into a solid player and contributes at sectional events in the intermediate level (18 and under). He has been a member of Springstead's varsity tennis program for two seasons.
"You never see (Matthew) on the court without either a determined look or a smile on his face," said Becky Groethendieck, president of the nonprofit tennis organization set up to provide an outlet for local youths. "He always gives his best effort, and he is determined in everything he does."
Academically, Cermak has always been strong, and his intelligence allows him to examine his success on the court in a more introspective way. He takes a great deal more from tennis than just sets and matches. He sees the effect the game has on his personality and maturation as even more influential.
"(Tennis) has taught me to not be afraid to take risks," Cermak said.
During his free time, he enjoys assisting other young players. Along with Louise and John Downey, Cermak helps advise other youths and increase the popularity of tennis locally. He knows how much the sport influenced him, and he wants to see others enjoy the same benefits.
Cermak has competed in all three of the annual NCTF Invitational Junior Tournaments that take place each January. The tournaments provide a competitive outlet for youths of all skill levels, and 100 percent of the proceeds go toward scholarships for local youth tennis camps.
His competitive edge in these tournaments and in other major events has rubbed off on his Junior Team Tennis doubles partner, Jacob Barry, along with the rest of his teammates.
"You might not think he's (very competitive) because of his reputation," Barry said, "but you can tell he wants to win when he gets out there.
"There's a difference between playing with Matt and playing with someone else," Barry said. "You just don't feel a whole lot of pressure with Matt — and no one's getting very angry."
It came down to this when the NCTF decided to name him the June Player of the Month. Questions about which one of the young players epitomized what tennis was all about were answered quickly. The outlook on life is more than just about tennis but about any activity these youths can undertake. Cermak was judged the perfect candidate for the honor.
"He's the type of kid that makes your eyes light up when you see him coming," Groethendieck said.
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