Paiste meets repeat challenge - again
Championships never come easy.
Reaching the pinnacle of success often takes the perfect unity of talent, hard work, coaching and timing.
It's a volatile formula that is difficult to create and can be nearly impossible to duplicate that's what makes repeating a championship such an arduous task.
Henry Paiste knows all about the challenges associated with repeating a championship. That's because he has done it twice.
Last month, Paiste captured his third straight District 11 Class AA tennis championship. A home-schooled student who lives in the Northwestern School District, Paiste's remarkable success at the district level is something he doesn't take for granted.
"This was definitely the most meaningful of my championships," Paiste said. "This year, I had a number of tough matches and had to beat some really talented opponents. Because of how well I had to play and how hard I had to work, it was very rewarding.
"It takes a lot of things going right to win a championship ... and to win three of them is beyond my wildest dreams."
Paiste's District 11 championship wasn't his only three-peat. For the third straight year, he was selected as the TIMES NEWS Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
"I'm very honored to receive the award," said Paiste. "It's nice to be recognized for your accomplishments."
For Paiste, the accomplishments keep stacking up.
In the last couple months, Paiste has:
* Placed fourth at the PIAA Class AA State Tournament (his best finish ever).
* Captured his first United States Tennis Association (USTA) U18 Sectional title.
* Competed in a U.S. Open tennis qualifier.
* Been bombarded with recruiting offers from Division 1 tennis programs
Those type of achievements don't come from weeks or months of training before the high school season starts. For Paiste, they have been years in the making..
While some athletes might have been satisfied after capturing a district title as a freshman, Paiste knew he wanted more.
"I would have never been able to win the last two years with the same game I had my freshman year," said Paiste. "I knew I needed improvement in a lot of areas."
So shortly after winning his first district title, Paiste started working with tennis pro Hernan Hernandez at West End Racquet, Swim & Fitness Club in Allentown. That's also around the time he turned to John Graham of St. Luke's Health Network to improve his strength and conditioning.
The results have been dramatic.
Hernandez has helped Paiste improve his all-around game and increase his service speed form 75 miles an hour as a freshman to one that has been clocked at 108 miles per hour now. At the same time, Paiste has added layers of muscle to his 6-1, 200-pound frame and has significantly improved his endurance.
All of those things factored into play when Paiste rallied for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Zach Shaff of Moravian Academy in this year's district final.
Paiste's two biggest advantages over Shaff were his serve and his play at the net. Just as important were the strength and stamina he displayed during the nearly two-and-a-half hour marathon.
"I can't say enough about how grateful I am to Hernan (Hernandez) and John (Graham) for all they've done for me," said Paiste. "Without them, these last two district titles wouldn't have been possible."
The titles also wouldn't have been possible without Paiste's dedication to the sport.
"I absolutely love tennis," he said. "I love spending time practicing and I love playing matches. I probably average 20-25 tournaments a year. I also spend about 15-20 hours a week on the court practicing and around 4-6 hours a week off the court working on strength and conditioning."
All the time and effort that Paiste is putting into tennis now, should benefit his game exponentially in the future.
But when it comes to tennis goals, Paiste doesn't like to look too far ahead.
"I like to set short term goals," Paiste explained. "I try not to look ahead to next year's district tournament or what I'm want to do in college or beyond.
"My focus is more week-to-week or tournament to tournament. I think that allows me to play my very best tennis."
It obvious by the results that the strategy has worked to perfection.
Because not only has Henry Paiste proven that he knows how to win championships. He has also proven that he knows how to defend championships.
And while Paiste might not want to talk about a four-peat, it obviously a real possibility.
That's because Paiste has shown time-and time again that he knows the championship formula and even more importantly he has learned how to improve it.