Getting back on the court is the goal of Steamboat Springs High School senior Emi Thompson. Thompson's senior season was delayed, but on Thursday, she returned to the court for the first matches of the year.

Getting back on the court is the goal of Steamboat Springs High School senior Emi Thompson. Thompson's senior season was delayed, but on Thursday, she returned to the court for the first matches of the year. Photo by John F. Russell. |

Injuries can't keep Steamboat Springs senior off tennis court

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— Steamboat Springs tennis player Emmie Thompson acknowledges she is a little frustrated that she has had to spend the first part of her senior season on the sidelines, but she also knows it could be worse.

“It’s been frustrating, and it’s been hard,” Thompson said Thursday, before taking her place in a crowded Suburban for a trip to Glenwood Springs, where she took the court for the first time this season in matches against Vail Mountain and Aspen. “I thought that I was going to be out a lot longer. The doctors didn’t think I was going to be able to play at all this season. I’ve have had shoulder injuries in the past, so they were not sure that I was going to be able to play at all.”

Thompson already missed most of her final season with the U19 girls hockey team. She took a bad fall and landed awkwardly on the ice at the MLK Tournament in January and spent most of the winter with her arm in a sling.

But almost as soon as Thompson learned the shoulder had been dislocated, she started working hard with the hope of salvaging her final year on the tennis court. She said she has been through extensive physical therapy, and the strength training seems to be paying off.

On Thursday, she joined Natalie Simon and took to the court as part of the Sailors No. 1 doubles team. It was a little later than she had hoped, but she was glad to be playing competitively again.

She still has limitations. Her doctors have not cleared her for overhead serves at this point, but life on the court is better than life on the sidelines. So Thompson has agreed to serve underhand, for now, but is eager to get back to full strength — hopefully by the end of the season.

“I’ve been practicing the past three weeks,” Thompson said. “It’s great to get back on the court, even if I have to serve underhand.”

Sailors coach John Aragon is also happy to have one of his top seniors back on the court and expects her to grow stronger with each passing week. He joked that he has been trying to get her to give up hockey for the past several years but knew that wasn’t in the cards. Thompson missed several weeks of her sophomore year with a concussion and didn’t get on the court until the regional tournament last season, the result of another concussion she suffered in hockey season.

“I think I have just had some bad luck the past few seasons,” Thompson said.

But despite that string of bad luck, she said she has never really considered skating away from hockey.

“I’ve been playing hockey for a lot longer. I started playing when I was really young. I like both sports, but they are so different. Hockey is more of a team sport, although tennis has some team aspects,” Thompson said. “I’ve always wanted to play both, and I didn’t want to give up either one. I thought about stepping back from hockey, but I really enjoy it.”

In fact, Thompson is hopeful she will be able to continue playing hockey when she leaves Steamboat for the University of Denver in the fall. She hopes to earn a spot on the club team at the university.

Thompson’s only full year of tennis came as a freshman. Her family had just moved to Steamboat from the Chicago area, and Thompson said she elected to take a year off from hockey. She entered the tennis season in good health and completed the full year. The following two years, she suffered concussions, and this year, she has been battling the shoulder.

But for now, she simply wants to enjoy being a part of the tennis team.

“I love to get to know all the new players on the team, and I love to hang out with my teammates,” Thompson said. “Being on the tennis team is just a lot of fun. This year, I'm hoping to make it to state, but what I really want to do is make some great high school memories."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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