Some of the members of the Florida Gators club tennis team pose by jumping before the picture.

FEATURE: Johann Rapp Chips and Charges Through Life

An athlete can probably easily describe the special bond they have with the sport they play. However, how difficult is it for an individual to realize and describe the benefit a sport has on their life? Johann Rapp, a University of Florida freshman and club tennis player, has been playing tennis for almost 15 years. A native of Key Biscayne, Florida, the islander attended school inland at Coral Reef Senior High School and played for the varsity tennis team all four years (two of them as captain) under coach Nelson Villegas.

The Miami Herald listed Rapp as one of the top returning boy tennis players in Miami-Dade County at the beginning of the season last February. Ironically, he was not even aware of the mention when notifying him. Rapp and his individual doubles partner made it to the 2015 Florida High School Sports Athletic Association (FHSAA) Class 4a Championship. His last matches include a Greater Miami Athletic Conference (GMAC) singles win defeating Santiago Uribe 6-2, 6-2. Unfortunately, Coral Reef fell to Dr. Krop 4-1 in the 2016 FHSAA Class 4A Boys Regional Tournament. Rapp finished his senior year with the Barracudas as a district champion.

The Coral Reef Senior High School tennis team take a picture after winning their district championship. Johann Rapp, centered in the middle with a backward purple hat, holds onto the trophy.

The First Serve

Johann Rapp was born in Miami, Florida, but quickly moved to Austria when he was three years old. Barely a preschooler, he chose tennis over soccer, Europe’s overwhelmingly favorite sport. Playing soccer, he would notice other kids playing tennis on the courts adjacent to the fields. Frederick Rapp, his younger brother, began to play tennis. Sibling competitiveness led Johann to want to become better than his brother, so he also started playing. “It was just normal for me to do always do the same thing that my brother did, but do it better than him,” according to Johann Rapp.

Three years later, he returned to the United States where he would be raised. The rivalry continued on with his brother, but they avoided playing each other because they blamed each other of cheating or even started crying. However, this motivated them and kept them practicing. Frederick describes the intense never-ending matches to be a key factor in their relationship. “I can agree with Johann that tennis has brought us much closer together.”

He spent his time when not playing for the high school team playing in Key Biscayne at his local club. He did not associate with most of the people on the island because he was “not a fan of their way of life.” On the other hand, the three people he played tennis with at the local club gave him an opportunity to have a small group of friends on the island. Additionally, he also found himself working and attending the Miami Open (“the largest tennis event in the world outside of the Grand Slams,” which is held yearly on the island).

Johann poses with his brother Frederick for a picture at an event.

Set Point: More Than a Game

In 2012, Rapp ranked 1099 in national recruiting rankings and 726 in TennisRPI, according to Tennis Recruiting Network. However, Rapp would not attend a university on scholarship to play tennis. He was admitted to the University of Florida and later enrolled. He would move to Gainesville from an island ‘village’ of only 12,924 people in 2014, according to City-Data. In other words, he transitions from an area with fewer people than the number of admitted students to the University of Florida in the class of 2021 (13,214).

Studying Applied Physiology and Kinesiology, he focuses on studying a lot to get good grades. This leaves Rapp stressed and needing of an escape. The club tennis team presented him an opportunity to immediately get back into the hobby he loves, and enjoy it with other people.

Rapp says that the workload required in playing tennis is helping him focus on all parts of his life. “Now I feel like that focus, determination, and motivation to do stuff and get on with things has helped me get into school…I feel like I am able to motivate others, especially my brother, and bring a hardworking atmosphere and mentality to wherever I am.” Although he understands that tennis is an individual sport, he cherishes the relationships he builds.

The University of Florida Club Tennis team played at the 2017 USTA Tennis On Campus National Championship from April 13-15 in Orlando, Florida. Florida came out of Pool D undefeated but eventually would fall to Wisconsin and finish tenth in the country. Rapp did not get to play because of the quality of the older players, but he was happy with the experience of cheering them on and stays motivated to become better.

Match Point: Acceptance of Support and Realization of the Future 

Rapp understands the financial need in order to be able to play tennis. His parents always encouraged him to continue playing the sport. “My mom always kept me on a positive side…while my dad kept a fire in me, but in a good way to fire me up and get me back out there and work harder.” He believes that he would have picked up soccer or swimming if tennis did not work out. Regardless, his parents were happy to be supportive in any of his endeavors. “We as parents were happy that he is playing sports and doing something productive rather than doing nothing or heading in the wrong direction,” says his mother Magdalena Rapp. His mother went on to describe how tennis has given him a way to “keep his schedule on track” through “perseverance, hard work, and motivation” in his life.

Johann Rapp practices playing tennis at the local club in Key Biscayne, Florida.

“It is nice to reminisce on my tennis peak,” Rapp says.  He could not stop mentioning how his junior year was his best year. At the conclusion of the interview, Rapp randomly defined how he does not know what his life would be without tennis. He highlights how he “would not be Johan if there was no tennis,” how he wears tennis clothes and watches hours of tennis.

His source of enjoyment, escape from life’s responsibilities, and teacher of progressing as a human being all revolves partly because of his relationship with tennis.

Johann Rapp is currently planning on running for President of the University of Florida Club Tennis team. Additionally, he plans on using this summer to go improve since the club team is entering a rebuilding phase.

Anything he can do to keep playing tennis is his ultimate goal.

About Homar Hernandez

Sports Journalist @ESPNGainesville, @VAVEL, @VAVEL_USA, @WUFTNews. Telecom at @UF. Miami Aficionado. Views are my own. RT's ≠ endorsements.

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