Some athletes shy away from the solitude of individual competition.
For Chase Healey, it’s a motivator.
“You’re out there alone, and you have to deal with a lot of adversity if you’re not playing at your best,” he said. “You have to come back from that, and you can’t make any excuses.”
A growing master at the mental side of tennis, now with the strength to match, Healey completed his sophomore season on the court as the Times-Union’s All-First Coast boys tennis player of the year.
He didn’t drop a singles match all year on the way to the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A overall singles championship, going more than two years without a high school defeat.
His strongest suit is his mental game,” Christ’s Church tennis coach Margaret Tucker said. “Figuring out his opponent, figuring out how to win and then using his patience in making that happen.
Shortly after Chase moved to Florida from Virginia with his parents, Art and Nicole Healey, his mother started playing tennis at a club near home. Chase decided he wanted to try the sport, and the rest is history.
“I took a few lessons, found a passion for it and began playing since then,” he said.
Healey, who has also played baseball and soccer, made an early start to top-level school tennis and kept on climbing. As a sixth-grader, he was already playing at No. 2 singles for Christ’s Church, then moved up to the No. 1 line by seventh grade. In eighth grade, he won his first district championship and qualified for the Class 1A state tournament.
Since the spring of 2019, he hasn’t lost a regular season singles match in high school competition.
I remember watching him [as a sixth-grader] take his opponents apart, even though at that point he wasn’t as strong as his opponents,” Tucker said. “For a coach to watch a sixth-grade kid doing that, it definitely made my heart pound a little faster.
Healey began with a perfect 6-0 mark in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic halted the year, and he picked up where he left off this spring.
By the time he returned to high school competition from the COVID-19 stoppage to the 2020 season, he was ready to enter his sophomore season stronger than ever.
“I spent a lot more time in the gym, and I’ve really been able to improve my serve speed and my power, while at the same time keeping my quickness around the court,” he said.
The result: A sweep through the FHSAA individual singles tournament, capped with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Justin Lyons of Pensacola Catholic in the overall final.
With the victory, Healey became the first player from a school within Jacksonville’s city limits to win a boys singles title since Bolles’ Matt Schimmel in 2005.
Healey said he most enjoys the distinctive challenge of clay courts, and while he doesn’t seek to pattern his game after one specific player, he’s enjoyed learning from the career of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
“Djokovic has always been an inspiration because of his really determined mindset and his great style of play,” he said.
If Healey was dominating the competition even before building up his muscular strength, what can he achieve in his remaining seasons of high school?
“Now the physical part of the game has caught up with his mental toughness,” Tucker said. “Now he’s able to do whatever he wants to do with any ground strokes.”
“I’m looking to repeat my accomplishments next year,” Healey said. “I want to leave a good impression for the college coaches.”