Freshman Brody Manemann is certainly turning heads on the tennis courts for the Clinton River Kings.
He may not look like the stereotypical athlete, but he's one of the best tennis players on the varsity roster, playing No. 3 singles an pairing up with Andrew Brisch for No. 1 doubles. He does that with impeccable smarts on the court.
"You wouldn't think he's as good as he is, but he has some of the best hand-eye coordination that I have ever seen," Clinton head coach Andrew Carbajal said. "He's tennis savvy with the best of them. He's not the fastest but kids just can't hit it to him."
He's certainly fun to watch. The Clinton 9th grader is always calm and collected with a racket in his hands, placing balls just perfectly to infuriate his opponents.
He's been focusing on the sport for quite some time, though. That's thanks to the summer programs ran by Clinton girls varsity coach Cindy Rasche at Max Lynn Courts.
"I first started when I was eight years old, started playing in the summers with Coach Rasche," Manemann said. "She taught me a lot about tennis and I just fell love with the game then."
And now he's working with the River Kings, who just wrapped up their regular season. He's the only freshman on the varsity roster, and the only one playing at North Scott this Wednesday in the district singles and doubles tournament.
"I'll be honest, I didn't think I would make it this high on varsity," Manemann said. "I was hoping to be on low varsity when I started."
Manemann says he works on both the mental and physical part of the game, really focusing on shot and serve placement. Even in some of the duels where the Kings have struggled, Manemann has pulled out impressive wins and competitive losses, never going down without a fight.
He has a little help. On occasion, Manemann joins the pickleball tournaments at the River Cities Tennis and Pickleball Association. Pickleball, a sport likened to tennis with modifications, is heavily played by the older generation. However, Manemann is one of the exceptions to that rule.
"It's a pretty fun sport, I like to play it," Manemann said. "It's a little weird to play, but the older people are pretty good and they help you with stuff. It's fun."
Plus, pickleball is played in a closer proximity. The smaller hitting surface and small court has actually helped him with tennis.
"[It helps] a little bit, yeah," Manemann said. "Things like placing shots in pickleball are pretty much the same, trying to place them away from them."
The River Kings will try to qualify for state on Wednesday in Eldridge, taking on some other Mississippi Athletic Conference teams in the process.
Manemann had three more years as a River King, which gives him plenty of time to improve his skills and work towards a possible future tennis career. For him, that's plenty of time.
"I will keep playing through all of high school, and maybe look at college for tennis," Manemann said. "We'll have to see how it plays out ... can't think about that too much now."