NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Briana Bartels, a tournament tennis player at 10 years old, is proof that elementary school students can devote time to their passions and be top academic performers. The Trinity Elementary School fifth-grader is as well known in her school for being an excellent student as she is for returning volleys on the court.
"That leadership she shows on the court, she also shows in the classroom," said Trinity Principal Anthony DiCarlo. "Teachers love having her in class."
Bartels was introduced to tennis at a young age by her father, Salifu Mohammed, Director of Prowess Tennis and a tennis player himself.
"Tennis was my passion since I was a baby," she said.
She began truly appreciating the sport at five years old, began playing at seven, and entered her first tournament when she was nine. She wins almost every competition she enters, said her father, who is also her coach. Last month, he entered her in the Long Beach Tennis Center December Open on Long Island.
She could still compete in tournaments for players 10 and under, but Mohammed felt she was ready to take on older players.
"I wanted to push her a little out of her comfort zone and see how she would react," he said.
She came home with a trophy. She won the Girls' 12s Singles Event, beating the number 1 and 2 seed.
"In the first match, I beat a 13-year-old who was way taller than me," she said.
Her secret to doing it all?
"My secret is my mom and my dad," she said. "They get me through everything that I do."
"She's got a lot of unique potential which you don't usually see at that age," her father said.
While practicing tennis four days a week, she still makes ample time to get her homework done. Asked about her favorite subjects at school, Bartels lists pretty much all of them: math, reading, science and social studies. Also, she loves art.
"That ability to balance the academics and her achievements in tennis at the age of ten is pretty impressive," DiCarlo said.