Alleman tennis ace Nicholas Patrick is among the nation’s best junior players
COAL VALLEY — Only a small minority of high school tennis players at the skill level of Rock Island Alleman junior Nicholas Patrick attend a regular school. To spend as many hours as possible each day on the court, many others opt for high performance tennis academies or are homeschooled.
But for Nicholas, who this summer was named USA Today’s National Boys Tennis Player of the Year and has just returned from competing in doubles at the U.S. Junior Open in New York — only 32 pairs from around the world were invited — Alleman is more than a school.
“It is really special to know that at Alleman I’m not just a tennis player, I’m viewed as a person, a human being, as well as a tennis player. It’s always great to represent them to the best of my abilities.”
“People say Alleman is a family, and it does feel like one,” said Nicholas, who as a Pioneer has brought home state tennis singles titles in both his freshman and sophomore years. His record in high school singles competition is an eye-popping 50 wins and no losses. In fact, he has dropped only one set — and that was while winning the 2023 IHSA state title match in May.
Add that he teamed with doubles partners to win national clay court and hardcourt tournaments this summer, and Nicholas is moving in rare tennis circles. He credits the academic, spiritual, and social experiences at Alleman for providing a needed balance.
“Everyone is incredibly loving and supportive for me, both on and off the court,” he told The Catholic Post during an interview at his family’s home in Coal Valley. “It is really special to know that at Alleman I’m not just a tennis player, I’m viewed as a person, a human being, as well as a tennis player. It’s always great to represent them to the best of my abilities.”
“A WONDERFUL SUCCESS STORY”
In turn, Nicholas’ success has meant a lot to Alleman, according to Pioneer tennis coach Bill Allee. Beyond the titles and headlines, Nicholas “is well liked, encourages his teammates, and is known across the state and beyond for both his tennis ability and how well he handles himself.”
“He has a great outlook on life, and while he is a wonderful success story right now, I believe the best is yet to come for him,” added Allee.
Attending Alleman is a family tradition for the Patrick family. Nicholas’ grandfather, Mike, is an Alleman graduate and he and his wife Lucy sent their six sons there, including Nicholas’ father, Dan.
Dan Patrick, a 1980 Alleman graduate who starred in tennis there as well as in college, is a longtime teaching professional and club director. Now he is also his son’s scheduler and primary coach.
“He’s the one doing all the work,” he said of Nicholas. And now Nicholas has high performance coaches across the country, including in North Carolina where the 16-year-old spent two months of intense tennis training this summer.
But the dad who jokes he put a racquet in his son’s hand before he could walk, and has guided him through a steady progression of training and competition, is as proud of his son’s “good heart” as he is of his tennis success.
“He’s very caring,” said Dan Patrick of Nicholas. “Players from other teams can’t believe he’s so open and honest and friendly.” And it is Nicholas’ maturity, giftedness in public speaking, and other “intangibles” that when added to his tennis skills are impressing college coaches across the nation, whose interest has “exploded” this summer, said his father.
At Alleman, Nicholas is part of the Student Council, the National Honor Society, and is a chair of Sigma Alpha Delta, which promotes living a life without destructive decisions.
AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
The Patricks, including mother Masha and Nicholas’ younger sister Lea — a seventh grader at Seton Catholic School in Moline, which Nicholas also attended from pre-school through eighth grade — are members of Christ the King Parish. Nicholas especially enjoys going out to breakfast with his grandfather after Sunday Mass whenever possible. And he notes with affection that his grandmother has scrapbooks filled with his many tennis accomplishments.
“I am very grateful to God for all the opportunities I’ve been given,” said Nicholas. He said his prayer before matches has evolved from a childhood “please let me win” to now asking God to help him “be my best self, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And if it’s not my day, then kudos to my opponent.”
An intense competitive drive and work ethic to be the best “in everything, not just tennis” is balanced by an effort to “be the best sport I can be.” He admits that it’s still a work in progress.
Nicholas dishes out gratitude as regularly as he serves aces or smashes overheads. Gratitude to God. To the Quad Cities and Alleman communities. To his coaches, mentors, and teammates. And gratitude for the sacrifices made by his family, including his father “who has helped me get where I am today.” He knows he is not alone on the tennis court and feels the support of so many.
“Part of the reason I love Alleman is that, after a good or a bad tournament, I can go back and be with my friends at school.”
A FEW FINAL POINTS
- Alleman Coach Allee tries to challenge his star player as best as he can in practice. Once he put three players on the other side of the net against Nicholas. “He still found the angles and won,” said Coach Allee, who called Nicholas “a wonderful teammate” and praised his demeanor as well as his drive and work ethic.
- Nicholas’ favorite professional player? He cites two. Roger Federer, now retired, and Novak Djokovic, who last weekend won the U.S. Open. Nicholas’ U.S. Junior Open doubles match took place at the same New York complex.
- Life lessons from tennis? Nicholas sees several. Just as he plays one point at a time — “I can’t focus on a mistake or a great shot, that’s in the past — he strives to live day-by-day “not worrying about the past or future, but what today has in store.” As in tennis, there is a need for resiliency in tough times and to “fight every day to be the best person.”