CHS tennis star turned football kicker


Senior tennis player Elliot Thaker has become the football team’s starting kicker.

By Hannah Yasharoff, Public Relations Editor

It is not uncommon to see high school athletes participate in more than one sport during the school year— plenty of athletes use the same skill sets to play football and basketball, or football and wrestling, but football and tennis? It’s almost unheard of, but that didn’t stop senior tennis player Elliot Thaker from taking his athletic skills to the gridiron.

“I didn’t really have any football background outside of throwing the ball around and playing pickup football at Beverly Farms,” Thaker said. “But I kicked a ball one day and everyone told me I should at least give the team a shot since the last kicker had graduated.”

Thaker was pushed to try out for the team by his friend and now teammate, senior defensive back Paolo Tranquill. The team was still in need of a starting kicker after tryouts had ended, so Thaker was able to try out during the team’s first practice.

“We didn’t really have a kicker in the beginning of the season and he told me he could kick,” Tranquill said. “I said it would be fun to be on a team together, and it would be a great way to end our senior year.”

Thaker won the 2013 mixed doubles state tennis championship last year along with senior Katie Gauch, but now he had to figure out a way to transfer his tennis skills to football.

“You do have to have some smarts, [and] he has all that instinct from tennis to start with,” kicking coach Faris Bandak said. “He has those skills with hand-eye contact, ball contact. He already knew how to get his steps right from tennis, which helped him get his steps right for a field goal. He was somewhat already ready, which was pretty nice, but he had to get the techniques down.”

Thaker was able to master those techniques, although it meant catching up by working hard after practice had ended to ensure that he would be ready to play just two weeks after his first football practice ever.

“He recognizes that there’s something he needs to do and he does it on his own time,” Bandak said. “There are intricacies in how you kick and when he learned something, he would go home and come back the next day and he will have spent a good portion of the time that’s available working on the footwork techniques.”

Once he learned the basics of being a kicker, Thaker still had to work to secure his spot as a starter.

“It’s not easy to come out and be expected to do something,” Bandak said. “There are other kickers who were kicking and were doing very well. He had to compete for the position. He didn’t just come out and take it. It was a unique situation and it’s tough to do.”

Joining the football team also meant acquiring a new team mentality.

“I think the biggest difference has been the importance of doing your part, because on the court if I lose, somebody else can pick up the slack by winning, but in football, everybody has to do their thing in order for the kick to get up,” Thaker said. “I think there is a lot more pressure in football because I only have one shot, and if I mess it up then it’s points lost that we may not get back.”

However, as daunting as it may seem to be the rookie on a team of boys who have played together since middle school, Thaker did not have any difficulty in adjusting to the new team dynamic.

“It really felt just like tennis because by the end of the first day, everyone was already messing with me like I’d been there the whole time,” Thaker said.

Thaker also became a source of positive energy for his teammates.

“[Thaker] is just fun to be around, and always kept his spirits high,” Tranquill said. “Even when we’d lose he would get up and help everyone hold their heads high and prepare for the next game.”

Thaker started consistently throughout the season, making 24 of the team’s 25 extra points and kicking two field goals in the first game of the season—his first career game.

After finishing up this football season, Thaker will move on to his fourth and final season on the varsity tennis team.

“I think the added leg strength and improved attitude could be huge for the [tennis] team this year,” Thaker said. “Plus, it’s senior year, so it’ll be all about winning, and I think with a new transfer, a couple of good freshmen, and a bunch of returning players, this could be the year we win counties, and hopefully I can get another state title.”

No matter what sport Thaker is playing, he proves that hard work and dedication are the keys to success.

“There were many times he exceeded my expectations, like when there was something that he had to get right,” Bandak said. “It’s very unique that somebody comes in for the first time, never kicked before, and can kick the way he kicked under pressure. That’s completely him. That’s fantastic.”