Peaster High School tennis’ Blair Ballard is headed to Brownwood to continue her playing career, having recently signed a letter of intent with Howard Payne University.
Having grown up with a sibling, Chase Ballard, who also went on to play tennis at the collegiate level, [Blair] Ballard said she developed a lifelong passion for the sport along the way, while adding that her positive experience with Peaster tennis made her desire to continue playing after graduation a major goal.
“I have grown up with a brother who had a passion for tennis too,” Ballard said.
“He also went to play at the next level for tennis. Growing up around it made it all click for me. Another way my love for tennis has grown is through Coach Josh Jones, as he has taught our team how to better ourselves on and off the court.
“Being able to play at the next level means a lot to me, as I wasn’t ready to give up my passion for tennis. Especially not being able to finish my [senior] season, being able to put all that energy into the next level means a lot to me.”
Jones for his part said Ballard’s drive and will to succeed stand to help her have a successful collegiate playing career, highlighting the Lady Greyhound’s leadership ability and passion for the sport in particular.
“Both as a tennis player and a person, she is a fighter,” Jones said.
“She’s one that shows up every day willing to do whatever a coach, teacher or teammate asks her to do. She’s a natural leader. Going through the hallways and being on the tennis court, she is usually the loudest person in the room but it’s in a positive manner trying to make the people around her better. Her leadership qualities are a very big part of who she is as a person and tennis player.
“She’s one of those who, if she sets a goal, she’s going to put everything towards it to where she’s going to eventually accomplish it. I really think the sky is the limit for her. She’s someone who’s very passionate about what she does.”
The decision to choose Howard Payne as her college home proved a quick one, Ballard said.
“My choosing of Howard Payne came the day I went to a preview day there,” Ballard said.
“As soon as I arrived on campus, it felt like home. Everything around me just clicked and it definitely was where I wanted to spend my next four years. Also, hitting with the tennis team that day just felt at home also. [Everyone] was so inviting and made me feel like one of them.
“Also, I want to continue my walk with God in my life and having a university that puts that first is very important to me.”
Jones said Ballard is walking into a great situation in Brownwood, noting that Peaster tennis has a number of connections in the area which should help make the latter’s transition a smooth one.
“I’m always excited for any player that decides to go play college tennis,” Jones said.
“For her to go off to Brownwood, we have some local connections there. We have a former player go out there, so she’s going in with some people on her side. She’s gonna have some teammates she knows and can make connections with, so it’s almost more of a family environment with people she already knows and that love and care about her.”
While eager to begin this new chapter, Ballard said it is tough leaving Peaster’s tennis program, noting the relationships she built with her teammates and coaches along the way.
“Leaving the Peaster tennis team is definitely the hardest part of this whole process,” Ballard said.
“I will remember this team as my second family. I love each and every one of them. I am so excited to see how much more improvement Coach Jones will make with them and how Peaster tennis will grow.
“I am beyond proud to be a part of the Peaster tennis team and it will remain in my heart for a very long time.”