Ward Wins State Title One Year after Injury
With one swing of his tennis racket, Madison Academics' Josh Ward won the state title in tennis singles. It was an exclamation mark on a long journey. To understand what he has gone through to get here you have to go back to the beginning.
He first picked up a racket when he was 9 years old. But it was after his first match when he nearly gave it all up.
"Mom sat me down and said either get up and keep going or quit now." Ward said. "So I stuck with it and kept playing. I really fell in love with it and it became a part of me and I was known for playing tennis."
Playing tennis runs in his family. His mother, Mary Anne played at Union. She has passed down her knowledge of the game to her son.
"She hasn't forced it on me," Ward said. "She's had a great impact on doing drills and always being my number one fan supporting me. We always talk about tennis and she helps me."
It wasn't long before Ward was excelling on the tennis court. By the time he was a Freshman, he had made it to the state semi-finals. But he was a little overwhelmed by the atmosphere.
"I remember my first match. It was 2 all in the first set and I was shaking," Ward said. "I walked up to the baseline and couldn't stop shaking. It was still the baby stage of high school tennis and I learned to deal with it."
He made the State Tournament again in his Sophomore and Junior seasons. But it was in his Junior year when he was forced to pull out of the tournament because of a hamstring injury. It was the hardest thing he has ever had to do.
"It was a long ride home," Ward said. "I'd say that it was hard not playing and something I worked up to all season and it was my year to win. It hurt not to even make a showing and just drive home."
It was on that drive home where he told himself he would be back. His senior season would be a season of redemption.
"Not being able to play made me hungrier for a title," Ward said. "My senior year we had our heart set and it was "state or bust."
A year later he was back at state. One step away from his ultimate goal.
"You cant let the stage define what the match is. You have to go out there and try your hardest," Ward said.
With that one swing everything he had worked for from the age of 9 to was now accomplished.
"Just the final note on a long series of hard work and effort. Just being able to share that with family and coach it was a sweet ending and sharing it in a moment of rejoicing," Ward said.
Earlier this month Ward signed with Wheaton College in Chicago where he will continue his tennis career.