Palestine Magazine Spring Edition 2021 - Page 9

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

Palestine makes all athletes feel important Story and photos by Juwan Lee

It is assumed that most athletes began to hone their craft when they were still in diapers . You want to be great ? Start young . That ’ s how it works . Think toddler Tiger Woods showing off his putt on the Mike Douglas show . Think baby LeBron shooting hoops . Think 3-year-old Serena Williams practicing tennis for two hours a day .

And it ’ s not only about starting young , it ’ s also about excelling early . However , Palestine tennis player Gage Concilio has defied that blueprint . Just in his fourth year , he ’ s become one of the top tennis players in the region .
“ I thought I was going to get made fun of for playing tennis ,” Concilio said . “ But that never happened . Palestine makes all athletes feel important . That ’ s why I love this community .”
Anyone who joins something late seems to go by the famous adage “ it ’ s a lot harder than I thought it would be .” It ’ s a phrase that still cracks Concilio up as he looked back on his first time playing on a tennis court his freshman year .
Though Concilio found tennis late , sports had been a part of his life since an early age . He grew up in Palestine playing youth football and baseball .
Even when he attended middle school at Palestine ’ s Innovation Academy , a magnet STEM school where sports are not offered , he tried to find his way onto various youth sports teams around the area .
Still , there was a longing for more . He returned to traditional public school in ninth grade at Palestine High School . The extended break from sports left a desire to experience as much as he could .
In the fall , he ran cross country . When that season ended it left him devoid of anything to participate in during spring sports . Former Palestine tennis Coach Scott Tyler invited Gage to a tryout and it was instantly love at first sight – even with the thrills of a new sport were evident in his first match .
“ My first tournament on junior varsity we got destroyed ,” Concilio said . “ That was the first moment I wondered if this was for me . Then we got to the consolation finals and won . It gave me a little hope and changed my mind again .”
His newfound love of tennis continued to test him throughout his freshman year . Gage went through their entire non-district schedule without winning a single medal . Sophomore year , he improved , but only finished the year with two trophies – both in the consolation bracket .
His junior year , he continued to add some hardware to his collection , but the season was abruptly cancelled and was forced to miss out on a season of development .
“ It was tough to stay positive ,” Concilio said after his junior year was canceled due to COVID . “ But that improvement factor drives me . Every year I feel like I make that next jump . Going from never had picked up a racket to playing for two and a half years and being ready to play at the college level is exciting .”
What also drives him is the support of his mom , and tennis coach , Melissa Fermin .
“ I can ’ t tell you how thankful I am for her ,” Concilio said . “ I remember going back out to the courts before my senior year , her tossing me the first ball and shanking the ball over the fence . I remember being down for those first two weeks because of this new learning curve .”
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