With Richie Lou, there’s always a plan.
All-State Girls Tennis: Late start doesn’t stop Friends’ Jaskulski
Photo Gallery: All-State Boys Tennis 2014
Photo Gallery: All-State Girls Tennis 2014
This spring, it was to become the first No. 1 singles state champion for Tatnall, and the graduating senior did so in dominant fashion – unbeaten and, on some occasions, unscored upon. His efforts earned him Delaware High School Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
“It’s always been a big goal of mine,” he said of the title. “Basically, all the hard work I put in during spring break and, basically, for 10 years of playing tennis really paid off, really shows that being prepared gets you what you want, which is a state championship.”
Lou was speaking by telephone from China, another endeavor well planned out. He is in the midst of a five-week internship with Ogilvy, an international advertising and marketing agency. It’s an opportunity for Lou to prepare for what lies ahead when he enters the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business this fall. He also saw it as one of his last chances to able to visit and stay with relatives in Beijing over an expectedly busy next four years.
While Lou was born in Massachusetts, his parents were born and grew up in China. And it is there that his interest in tennis can be traced.
“It was kind of my dad’s way of survival,” Lou said. “My dad grew up during the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Revolution, in China. Only one child in the family was allowed to stay in the city and all the other children in the family had to move out to the countryside to work in the fields or factories or what have you.
“My dad had a little sister who was 12 years younger than him who had been born around the time the policy had been enacted. So, his choice was either for him to go work in the fields or the factories or for his sister, once she grew up, to work there, which wasn’t easy for either of them. [But] the Chinese government had a policy where, if you were a state-sponsored athlete, you were allowed to stay in the city with your family.
“My dad took up tennis and worked to the level where he could be recognized as a good enough player to be state sponsored. And, therefore, both he and his sister were allowed to stay in the city.”
Now living in Newark, his father works for JPMorgan Chase, his mother for Ashland Technologies. Besides a passion for tennis, Lou’s parents instilled in him a sense of commitment, service, leadership, setting priorities and organization.
Perhaps that is why he left Tatnall with a 4.23 GPA and numerous academic awards, why Hornets coach George Wisniewski called Lou “my hero” after he scored 800 in math in his SATs. It’s why he spent three weeks in Peru helping renovate a school for orphans, why his tennis suffered slightly during the final stages of becoming an Eagle Scout. And why he won’t play tennis his first year at Penn.
“He’s got it planned out; don’t ever think he doesn’t,” said Rob Wirth, his longtime coach at DuPont Country Club. “He seems to have done pretty good so far in his decision making.”
Lou became Tatnall’s first boys tennis state champion as a freshman, winning second singles. He repeated as a sophomore when he helped the Hornets to their first boys state team title. In 2013, he lost in the semifinals of first singles. Then, once he had secured Eagle Scout status and gotten into the college of his choice, his focus became set squarely on spring tennis.
“Every Sunday night at 8 o’clock we had all our varsity players come to the indoor building [at DuPont] during December, January, February to practice for an hour and a half,” Lou said. “The fact that most of them showed up really showed their dedication. I was captain and really took it to heart. With our team, I set our goal to win the state championship.”
As it turned out, Tatnall came up just short of capturing a second team title. However, Scott Battaglia broke through to win in second singles at states and an inexperienced duo of Marc Paul and Louis Zammarchi won second doubles.
“We finished second by a point to Caesar Rodney,” he said, “which was kind of a shame since we won three of the five finals. I was very proud of our team.”
Lou had opened the season with a handful consecutive 6-0, 6-0 wins and, sure enough, that became his motivation – not to yield a game all season. “Obviously, that didn’t happen, but that was my mentality, to compete for every single point, every single game,” he said.
The 5-foot-7, 120-something buzz saw with the spot-on, angled serves, the racket speed and untiring consistency blitzed through the remainder of the season and the state tournament. Another challenge completed.
And just like that, he has decided to take a break from tennis. It’s all about priorities, such as working for Ogilvy this summer to try to get two or three steps ahead of the crowd. Such as placing academics first and taking in the full college experience. There’s not enough time for a 100-percent commitment to sports at this stage.
“My first year of college, I want to focus on academics,” he said. “Everyone says you always want a good start in college and that momentum carries through.”
If he can fit club tennis into his routine, fine. Then, if everything goes as anticipated, he has left the door open to walk on to the Penn tennis team his second year.
Anyway, that’s the plan.