Bears' Olexson makes up for lost time
Madison Olexson got a late start on her tennis career.
But it certainly hasn't prevented her from excelling at the sport.
While Olexson was learning the ABCs in elementary school, a lot of her peers were already learning the ABCs of tennis forehand, backhand and serve.
It was almost a decade later, as Olexson was entering high school, when the Pleasant Valley standout picked up a tennis racquet for the first time.
Far behind when it came to the basics and fundamentals of the sport, Olexson relied on a proven athletic formula for making up ground when it came to tennis' ABCs.
Olexson did it by turning to another letter of the alphabet D.
That's D as in Dedication, Determination and Discipline.
This past season, the dividends of her hard work were on display:
* Olexson defended her No. 1 position in a much-improved Pleasant Valley line-up.
* She recorded double-figure victories despite facing an extremely challenging schedule that featured some of the best tennis players in District 11.
* She achieved two huge individual goals during the postseason.
* She was the leader of a Bear squad that won the school's first-ever Mountain Valley Conference title.
"It was an incredible season," said Olexson, who is in her junior year. "It was better than I could have ever imagined. The biggest difference for me was that when I played against some of the top players in our league and in the district, I was a lot more competitive than I was facing those players my sophomore year.
"I also achieved my goal of winning a match at both the District 11 Singles and Doubles Tournaments. But the thing I'm most proud of is our team winning the MVC championship. To be part of the first Pleasant Valley team to ever do that is something I'll never forget."
For all the things she accomplished and all the goals she reached, Olexson was selected the TIMES NEWS Tennis Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
"There are so many good tennis players on my own team and throughout the area," said Olexson. "I'm honored to be chosen for this award for the second year in a row."
One of the reasons Olexson has been able to make such dramatic improvements in her tennis game over the past couple of years has been her dedication.
"Madison improved a great deal from the time she played the sport for the first time as a freshman until her sophomore year when she earned our No. 1 singles spot," said Pleasant Valley coach Mark Allison. "But she wasn't satisfied with that.
"During the past off-season she worked on her game constantly. She played on an indoor team in the winter, went to camps and clinics in the spring, and didn't miss one of our voluntary summer workouts."
While her time commitment to the sport showed her dedication, her attitude on the court spoke volumes about her determination.
"From the moment I picked up a racquet for the first time, I've dedicated myself to being the best I could be at the sport," said Olexson. "I guess that's my personality.
"I put all my heart and all my energy into everything I do. If I decide to get involved in an activity or a sport, I go all in."
According to Allison, that's not an exaggeration.
"Madison is the type of player you love as a coach," said the veteran Pleasant Valley mentor. "She listens, she learns and she keeps on improving.
"She's never satisfied. She's always looking to make herself a better player."
But perhaps the main reason for Olexson's fast climb up the tennis ladder has been her discipline. Because without that it would be impossible to have the dedication and determination she displays.
And she learned that discipline at an early age.
When a lot of her peers where picking up tennis racquets for the first time, Olexson was discovering a vastly different sport Taekwondo.
Like all martial arts, Taekwondo is known for its physical and mental discipline. Olexson began the sport at age 5 and has developed into one of the best in the entire nation.
At the 2012 USA Taekwondo Nationals in Dallas, Texas, Olexson just missed making the United States National team. She is so good in the sport that earning a spot on the 2016 United States Olympic team is not out of the question.
"I think the discipline and footwork you need for Taekwondo has definitely helped my tennis game," said Olexson. "I've competed in taekwondo and have loved doing it for as long as I can remember.
"But I've also fallen in love with tennis. I love how it's an individual sport, but at the same time it's a team sport. I love the one-on-one competition when you're on the court and I love how it's a lifetime sport. I just love everything about it."
Olexson is already looking forward to next tennis season and beyond.
"During my senior season, I want to improve upon what I accomplished this year," said Olexson. "After that, I want to play college tennis. That's my ultimate dream."
With Olexson's combination of dedication, determination and discipline, achieving that dream should be as easy as A-B-C and D.