BRANDON, Fla. — Two years ago, Brian Osceola had no idea the impact a summer recreation tennis program would have on his son. Up to that point, Nigel Osceola had never picked up a tennis racquet, but the program in Brandon, Florida helped him quickly fall in love with the sport and he’s played ever since.
“It was just something for kids to occupy time during the summer,” Brian recalled. “He’s the one who wanted to keep going.”
The program did more than occupy Nigel’s time; it provided a spark that has led to lessons, practices, tournaments and trophies.
The fourth-grader at Brandon Academy works on his game during the week, competes in tournaments on weekends in the Tampa and Orlando regions and even has a personal coach.
After several top five finishes, Nigel and his favorite Slazenger racquet made it to the top in early February when he earned his first championship trophy after posting a 4-1 record in the 10U boys division at the Winter Park Early Spring Junior Grand Prix Tennis tournament. His only loss came against Jacob Immelman, who played in another age group and is also the son of 2008 Masters golf champion Trevor Immelman.
Nigel, 10, added the trophy to his growing collection at home in Brandon. Even though tennis has become a big part of Nigel’s young life, he’s not yet a big fan of watching it on TV.
“He’ll sit there and watch it, but he gets bored,” Brian said.
Nigel, who plays singles and doubles, said it’s the competition on the courts that he enjoys most.
“I enjoy facing people that are evenly matched,” Nigel said in early March, a few days after he finished second in a tournament in Clearwater.
The days of feeling nervous in tournaments have evaporated for Nigel, who competes in the Junior Grand Prix Tennis and for the Brandon Sports & Aquatic Center.
“Now I got used to them,” he said.
Under the tutelage of coach Rolland Miller, Nigel develops all aspects of his game.
“He’s been improving very much and showing a lot of potential,” Brian said.
In addition to tennis, Nigel, the oldest of four siblings, plays basketball, football and soccer. His flag football team at Brandon Academy went undefeated in the regular season.
Football vies with tennis as Nigel’s favorite sport for a good reason. Nigel said he looks up to Florida State wide receiver and fellow Seminole Justin Motlow, who just happens to be Nigel’s uncle and a Brandon Academy alum.
Nigel will get a taste of FSU this summer. He’s been invited to attend the college’s high performance tennis camp for youth.