Boys Tennis: Flanagan finds his sport after knee injury

Rochelle senior Sean Flanagan suffered a serious knee injury during his freshman football season. Despite that, Flanagan worked his way back through competing with the Hub tennis program. (File photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle senior transitions from football to enjoy three-year career with Hub netters

When Rochelle Township High School senior Sean Flanagan began his three-year tennis career with the Hubs, the right-handed netter had no choice but to start from the ground up.

Flanagan went out for the team as a sophomore, and in addition to having almost no experience on the court, he was coming off a serious knee injury that required surgery. Despite unfavorable odds, Flanagan persevered and became both a leader and a key contributor for Rochelle, competing in both singles and doubles during his high school career.

“My favorite part about playing tennis for RTHS was starting from nothing my sophomore year and progressing on the court,” Flanagan said. “I think my confidence improved the most. Tennis is a game of errors, so it’s really easy to get stuck in your head. But as I played more tennis, I became more comfortable with my shots and my strategy during matches.”

Flanagan began his varsity career in doubles before transitioning to singles as an upperclassman. Flanagan took over Rochelle’s No. 1 singles position as a junior, and without COVID-19 forcing the IHSA to cancel spring sports in 2020, Flanagan would’ve been the team’s leading returner in singles this spring. Flanagan, who also played golf for one season at RTHS, received Academic All-Conference honors from the Northern Illinois Big 12 in 2019.

“Playing tennis really taught me mental toughness,” Flanagan said. “It was really important not to let my errors bother me and to focus on my next serve. One of my favorite memories was competing at regionals this past season. Everybody played really well and it was a great time.”

Flanagan said he plans to study biomedical engineering at The University of Iowa with the hopes of becoming a physician. He said his knee injury motivated him to take up tennis his sophomore year, and he said he’s since grown to love the sport.

“I didn’t play until my sophomore year because I was dealing with a football injury and subsequent surgery as a freshman,” Flanagan said. “I couldn’t play contact sports anymore, but I still wanted to compete, so I tried out for the tennis team. I’m so grateful for my experience because I love tennis now and it’s something I can play for many years.”

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