Tucked away behind construction machinery and stacks of building materials are the Southwest Junior High tennis courts. Prospective team members, coaches and spectators alike reach them only by taking a roundabout path on foot, past the construction area and behind temporary classroom trailers.
The courts may be hidden, but they are definitely there.
Last week 45 hopefuls made their way to the hidden courts to try their hands at tennis. Deborah Woodall, coach of the Lady Bulldogs, said almost half them got their first taste of competitive school sports.
Twenty of the potential team members were seventh-graders.
Jackie Garcia was one of those seventh-graders, and said she thought there were so many of them playing tennis because it, along with track, is one of the only sports they are allowed to play in their first year of junior high school.
"We can't really do a lot of sports in seventh-grade," Garcia said. "So I thought I'd try this."
The team held tryouts last week, but the atmosphere on the asphalt stayed light. The only hard-hitting in the vicinity took place a few hundred yards away on the football field.
Instead, the air surrounding the tennis courts was filled with teasing shrieks of "Don't mess up!" Those shouts were followed with ones like "Good try!" and "You'll get it next time!"
Both Woodall and Garcia said they were out to have fun. Garcia by enjoying tennis with her friends, Woodall by teaching the girls a lifelong sport.
"They're just a great group of girls," Woodall said.
She also said she did not hear a single complaint about the 100 degree heat that settled over Lawrence last week.
Players and coaches alike braved the scorching temperatures to practice everything from fundamentals like how to hold a racket and hit the basic strokes to serving and getting their footwork down.
"It's a lot of work, but the coaches help you out a lot," Garcia said.
Woodall and her assistant coaches, Pat Salvatore and Amanda Torbett, will name a group of 16 girls to the competitive team, enough to make up both the varsity and junior varsity squads. They will not, however, make cuts, Woodall said.
"For the kids that don't make the afternoon competitive team, we have an instructional league that meets before school," she said. "Everyone gets to play."
Along with matches against other Lawrence schools, the Lady Bulldogs will face teams such as Baldwin this season. They will also travel to Topeka to play Washburn Rural.
Woodall said she had high hopes for the season, but not necessarily just for on-the- court success.
"I would hope the girls would work together as a team," Woodall said. "I hope they understand how their roles play a part in the bigger picture."