May 25, 2010
Taylor Patrick is using this year to refine his skills. Yes, his tennis skills, too. But he is working on his heckling skills, and, by now, he's developed the act into a fine art.
"Cheerleader? The term doesn't bother me," the Knoxville native said. "I guess it started when there was an incident at the beginning of the semester. A guy got really upset at me for what I was doing."
The incident in question took place at the ITA National Indoor Championships.
The Vols were playing in the semifinals of the tournament. Patrick drove to the event with teammate Christopher Williams. As the match got underway, Patrick quickly moved to court three where Rhyne Williams was in a tough contest--it was tough, that is, until Patrick arrived.
"I wasn't really doing anything obnoxious," Patrick said. "I was just clapping for Rhyne. But (his opponent) couldn't handle it, I guess. He looked at me and said, `Your clapping is obnoxious.'
"So I clapped more. Then he asked me if I was the official cheerleader--which was perfect because he was focusing on me and not playing tennis."
Rhyne Williams went on to win that match. But Patrick harbored no hard feelings against Williams' opponent. He reached out with an olive branch.
"After the match, Taylor sent him a friend request on Facebook and signed it as `the Tennessee cheerleader,'" freshman Ed Jones recalled. "Unfortunately, I think he got rejected."
So how does one get to be a great cheerleader for collegiate tennis? If you ask his teammates, Patrick is biologically enhanced to fill the position.
"He has some sort of weird shaped hands that he can clap louder than anyone else," Jones said. "If he does it next to your ear you'll be deaf in 20 seconds."
While you may or may not lose your hearing if seated next to Patrick at a match, you will definitely see him make an impact on what's happening on the court.
"He isn't on the court but it feels like he is," senior Davey Sandgren said. "He isn't hitting tennis balls but he does provide an extra element to the match. Taylor is the backbone of our cheering section. He is awesome."
By now, you are undoubtedly wondering how you, too, can be a great heckler like Taylor Patrick. Here are Patrick's tips on how to be an effective cheerer: "You're not actually allowed to talk to the other players," Patrick said. "You can actually get a point penalty for your team. Basically, all I do is be obnoxiously loud after a point and before the next.
"I clap for extended periods of time. I've learned that people hate that. Especially if they lose a point--it definitely gets under their skin. Then I just cheer on our guys--GO DAVEY! GO RHYNO! GO SMITTY!"
While he isn't on the court, he relishes his role as the Vols' undisputed No. 1 fan. He doesn't technically get credit for any points scored, but in his role on the team, Patrick contributes plenty to the success of the team, and he is grateful for the job.
"I enjoy being in the position I am," Patrick said. "We have such a talented team. It`s hard to play for a team that's this good. But to still have a role and be a part of what we're doing is awesome."