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JAYDA SCHEPER : Tennis is in her Blood

story by Nathan Livesay     photos by Susan DeLoach
hen Jayda Scheper was asked how long she has been playing tennis, she looked bewildered for a minute before saying “For as long as I can remember.” Her father and coach, Larry Scheper, volunteered that she was about two years old when she started, “I’ve got pictures of her swinging a racket in her walker.”  Tennis is definitely a family affair for the Schepers and their love for the game has created a unique father-daughter bond.
Jayda, a 16 year old Junior in high school,  is an accomplished tennis player already.  This is her 5th year as a player at Beaufort Academy, where she plays #1 in Singles and Doubles.  In 2017, she led Beaufort Academy to their first ever South Carolina Independent Schools Association (SCISA) state championship after a pair of runner-up finishes earlier in her career.  She’s been named to SCISA All-State team as a freshman and sophomore and was a member of High School Sports Report All State team following her sophomore season.  She’s a three time’ Most Valuable Player’ for the Beaufort Academy girl’s tennis team and accomplished a rare double as she also won a state championship this spring playing for the Beaufort Academy boys team. Scheper just started her junior season by leading Beaufort Academy to a season opening victory over Bluffton High School and her goals for this season include another state championship and making the all-state team again.  Following the season she will train the rest of the year for the American Tennis Association Hardcourt National Championship to be held in Florida in July of 2019.
Jayda likes playing tennis because she feels like she gets the best of both individual and team sports.  It’s a team game, but it also has the individual aspect to it.  She says the game has taught her to focus, to be patient and to believe in herself.  She used to play volleyball, even attempting to play volleyball and tennis at the same time one season. But, because both sports seasons are at the same time, playing both just prevented her from fully committing to either.  She credits what she’s learned from playing tennis with helping her succeed off the court as well.  She illustrated these points by describing a match on the road against St. Andrew’s in Savannah where she fell behind 5-2 because she was allowing herself to be frustrated and impatient and this resulted in her hitting bad shots, but after taking time to mentally regroup and play more patiently, she was able to rally and win the next five games to take the set and match 7-5.
Larry Scheper coached Beaufort Academy to state championships in both girls and boy’s tennis last season and has a long and impressive playing career as both an an amateur and a professional player.  Playing for her father creates some pressure  to succeed as she attempts to live up to her father’s impressive tennis trophy collection. But Jayda was quick to say that that pressure comes only from herself, not from her mom or dad.    This pressure hasn’t hurt their relationship though. When asked her about her role models and inspirations, she started by naming her father.
“My number one role model is my dad, obviously, because he’s been an amazing tennis player and done amazing things.  Tennis has brought him amazing opportunities.”  Jayda and Larry work together teaching the game of tennis to youth here in Beaufort and have also played together in mixed doubles events.
Larry loves coaching her “it is really nice to have a good relationship with her on and off the court.  We’ve been playing and I’ve been coaching her since she was two.  Sometimes it’s difficult when she wants answers on the court, but it’s something she has to find out by herself.  It’s really nice coaching your kid, going through the ups and downs, more ups than downs, with them,” he says.
Jayda is just as impressive off the court as she is on it. Beaufort Academy’s former athletic director, Neal McCarty, said “She is well respected and she respects others as well – she motivates teammates, her integrity helps make her an integral part of every team and group that she is a part of. Jayda is a person of outstanding character, and the type of young lady that younger players can and should look up to.”
Jayda clearly has big plans beyond high school.  She wants to play college tennis and study to become a lawyer.  Her dream school is Stanford, but she is also considering the possibility of playing at Howard or her father’s alma mater, Grambling.
When she’s not playing tennis, Jayda enjoys singing as a member of the Beaufort Academy Chorus, the Blue Notes, working a part time job at a clothing store and helping her father Larry teach tennis at his near daily tennis clinics.
Last spring, she won the T. Reynolds Robinson Scholarship given annually to a Beaufort Academy sophomore who exhibits strong leadership and athletic ability and the respect and friendship of classmates along with academic achievement.  When I asked her about winning this award she said “It was really an amazing experience.  I was really happy to get that, I got a little emotional because I feel like I do work hard, because I  know I have to, I absolutely have to. School is number one to me and tennis is number two. I have to get to college because I want to be able to take care of me and my family.”
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