Sports Person of the Week
Patel Sets an Excellent Example On and Off the Court
Dhruvi Patel earned the honor of leading the North Branford girls’ tennis team as a senior captain and got to do so alongside her cousin Diya. (Photo courtesy of Dhruvi Patel)
Working hard to improve in any sport is typically the focus of every athlete. For Dhruvi Patel, the hard work that she puts into her everyday life has translated into her athletic career, leading her to a senior captain’s role with the North Branford girls’ tennis team this spring.
Dhruvi earned the honor of leading the T-Birds as a senior captain alongside her cousin Diya Patel for the 2022 season. The duo’s bond grew that much stronger as they guided their club on the courts.
Dhruvi began her tennis career during her freshman year at North Branford. Dhruvi didn’t get many chances to play in elementary or middle school, but some trips to visit family in New Jersey provided her with opportunity to pick up a racquet and unlock her passion for the sport.
“My uncle enjoys tennis a lot, so he took us to play, and I really enjoyed playing with them,” says Dhruvi. “So, I decided to take it up in high school my freshman year.”
Dhruvi’s journey as a high school tennis player was challenging at times. After getting acclimated to the program in her freshman year, Dhruvi saw her sophomore season get canceled. However, that setback didn’t deter Dhruvi from preparing to improve for her junior campaign.
“I did spend a lot of time in the offseason playing. I tried to hit for an hour every day to improve myself,” says Dhruvi. “I worked with the seniors a lot during my sophomore year to develop my game.”
Dhruvi wanted to be a leader as she entered her junior season. Dhruvi stepped into the No. 1 singles position for North Branford and focused on refining her strategy. Dhruvi’s progression as a junior was evident, and she went on to be named one of the T-Birds’ captains in tandem with her cousin Diya for their senior seasons.
“Of course, I felt honored being named senior captain alongside my co-captain. It was a huge responsibility,” Dhruvi says. “Being a captain helped me get closer to the players, because I feel like they could look to me for advice and I could help them improve. It kind of felt like it was my role to help them.”
Despite missing much of the year due to injury, Dhruvi did everything she could to help her team this season. While that leadership didn’t always come on the court, Dhruvi’s presence was still felt through that constant support that she gave her teammates. Head Coach Liz Caplan describes Dhruvi as a humble leader and a unique player for the North Branford tennis program.
“Dhruvi is a leader that leads by her work ethic, her approachability, and her sense of humor,” says Caplan. “She always wants to strive for better. It’s very apparent to her teammates how hard she works.”
Coach Caplan counted on Dhruvi as North Branford’s top singles player and, while the T-Birds didn’t post the record that they had hoped for, the senior captain’s work ethic set a great example for her teammates. Dhruvi is hoping that her teammates took note of her problem-solving abilities on the court and improved their own games as a result.
“I think my teammates admire my stability and ability to adjust to problems throughout my matches,” Dhruvi says. “If I’m struggling or something, I try to motivate myself throughout, and I make sure they can see that when they watch me play.”
One of the biggest lessons that Dhruvi has learned while playing tennis for the T-Birds is that growing pains are normal. Dhruvi realizes that it’s difficult to become a better tennis player if you aren’t willing to step outside of your comfort zone and recognize the areas in which you need to improve.
Fortunately for Dhruvi, she put that philosophy into practice at North Branford and wants to see the next generation of Thunderbirds follow in her footsteps.
“The most important trait you need is the ability to accept your failure. You have to be open-minded and be tolerant with yourself, because tennis is a really difficult sport to get good at,” says Dhruvi. “If you’re not accepting your failure, then it’s going to be really hard for you to improve.”
Dhruvi applies her mindset in tennis to other areas of her life. She takes pride in making the honor roll while keeping herself active in the North Branford community. Dhruvi is a member of the Art Club, the Gardening Club, and the National Honor Society at the high school. The senior feels grateful to be involved and looks forward to continue pursuing the hobbies that she’s passionate about after graduation.
Dhruvi is going to attend the University of Hartford to pursue her master’s in the five-year program of architectural design and technology with a goal of becoming an architect. If her work ethic with the T-Birds is any sign of the future, Dhruvi will be able to achieve any goal that she works toward. Dhruvi appreciates the fact that she knows her family will be in her corner every step of the way.
“My family motivates me for sure,” Dhruvi says. “Growing up, they’ve always taught me to root for success and work hard for myself, so I can succeed in the long run.”