Featured / Sports / The Prairie Fire / October 3, 2012

Garvin thriving after making tough decision

Just two years ago, junior women’s tennis player Charlotte Garvin was a freshman playing for Knox women’s soccer. Today, she is one of the top women’s tennis players in the Midwest Conference, playing on the top line for the Prairie Fire in both singles and doubles.

Junior tennis player Charlotte Garvin faced a tough decision when she was told concussion symptoms would prevent her from playing contact sports, but after choosing to stop playing soccer, Garvin has thrived on the tennis courts, finishing second in the Midwest Conference Singles Tournament last season. (TKS/Archives)

Rewind six years. Garvin was a freshman at Omaha Central High School in Omaha, Neb., playing for the tennis team. Having played competitively since the age of 8, Garvin felt her passion waining after completing her freshman year.

“[I just] got tired of playing tennis,” she said.

Always a multi-sport athlete, however, Garvin moved on from tennis to pursue other sports more intensely. The remainder of her high school career was dedicated to playing soccer, a sport she continued to play after arriving at Knox.

Everything changed at a game against Carroll University her freshman year, when a kicked ball struck her in the back of the head.

The incident would forever change her athletic career, as she suffered a concussion on the spot. Not realizing exactly what had happened, Garvin continued to play and it was not until hours later that the repercussions of the hit began to show.

In what would prove to be a fateful decision, Garvin attributed the flu-like symptoms to a typical bug and decided to sleep it off.

Feeling “totally fine” in the morning, Garvin proceeded to play, Ripon the next day; in a vulnerable state, she gave herself yet another concussion, her second in less than 24 hours.

Garvin once again attempted to tough out the symptoms, fighting through several brutal days of practice before the pain became too hard to endure.

“[I] just couldn’t take it any more [My] head hurt so much I felt like I was going to pass out,” Garvin said.

When she visited the team trainer, she failed the concussion test, but was so anxious to get back on the field that she took it again  and failed the test three subsequent times.

All signs seemed to point to something more serious than a normal concussion at work, and when Garvin returned home to her normal doctor, she heard the phrase that no athlete ever wants to hear: “You need to stop playing contact sports.”

Though Garvin knew she would miss soccer a great deal, she made the decision to stop playing. But being the fierce competitor she is, Garvin could not just stop fighting, so she returned to her old stomping grounds: the tennis courts.

Garvin received not only the support of her new teammates and coach, but also of her ex-soccer coach Melissa Joseph, who insisted that Garvin prioritize health over soccer.

“[I told her] to do what [her] heart told her,” Joseph said.

Garvin’s transition back into tennis was eased by her voracious play in her first season back. After shaking off the rust in the first two matches of the 2011 season, both losses,  Garvin went on an absolute tear. She won her next seven matches, including six against opponents from the MWC.

Garvin not only received multiple weekly awards from Knox but also earned the right to play in the 2011 Midwest Conference Women’s Singles Championships. There, she stormed to the number three finals, losing a total of just five games en route to a match-up against Grinnell’s Shirlene Luk.

Unfortunately, Garvin’s nine game winning streak was snapped in heartbreaking fashion, as she lost a nail-biter 5-7, 6-3, 5-7 to finish second overall.

Nonetheless, the impressive performance meant that Garvin was the first Knox women’s tennis player to advance to a finals round at the MWC Singles Championships since Liz Ferry ‘04 lost the number one singles title match in 2004.

Looking back, Garvin is now thrilled with the decision she made, and the tennis exhaustion seems to be a thing of the past.

“As much as I love soccer, I am ultimately happier playing tennis,” Garvin said. “You still have people cheering for you, you still have the support of coach … I really like that I know that when I’m playing poorly, it’s all on me. In soccer, if I’m playing poorly, I adversely affect other people and inhibit the success of the team.”

Midway through her second season on the tennis court, Garvin continues to improve and has been doing so with the support of her teammates.

“[Garvin] is a very supportive teammate, with one of the strongest games I’ve ever played with personally,” senior Sarah Bolitho said.

Garvin is 5-3 so far this year in singles play, and is 4-6 in doubles.

If she is seeking redemption for last season, the Midwest Conference Women’s Singles Championships are set for Friday, Oct. 12th in Rockford.

Tags:  charlotte garvin concussions knox women's tennis melissa joseph sarah bolitho

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Gavin Crowell
Gavin Crowell is a junior with interests in neuroscience and psychology. He has been playing baseball ever since he could walk, playing throughout his childhood and winning two IHSA regional titles in his three years of varsity baseball at Walter Payton College Prep. He currently plays on the Knox College Ultimate team. Gavin is an Illinois State Scholar and has been involved with writing throughout high school. This is his third year working with TKS. Over the summer after his sophomore year, he had a sports internship at the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago's second largest paper.

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