Whatever the outcome this season, nobody can say a word about the Mt. Blue girls’ tennis team’s attitude and determination thanks to two co-captains — Thia Bridges and Alyssa White — who take their leadership roles quite seriously.
But the Mt. Blue co-captains also want their teammates, above all else, to have fun this season. 
“The two senior captains, Alyssa White and Thia Bridges, have been coming up with team-building activities,” Mt. Blue coach Judy Upham said. “They have designed a new t-shirt to replace the design we have been using for eight years. 
“They have developed a new dynamic warm-up routine with the help of the physical trainer. They ask a question during stretch time like, ‘What is your favorite food?’ or ‘Where would you like to travel?’ so that the girls begin to know more about each other. They have decided Mondays will be “neon Mondays” — everyone trying to outdo the others with their show of neon colors. They don’t know that my arsenal of neon (leftovers from the ’80s) will outshine them all.”
And then there is the story of the acquisition of Maximus the Owl, which has become the team’s mascot and now presides over the Cougars at every practice and tennis match. Maximus is statue used in gardens to scare off bothersome birds. It was found in a dumpster in Gardiner and revived to inspire the Cougars. Maximus will also be wearing a new T-shirt.
The collaborative effort between Bridges and White is helping shape team unity as well as getting the Cougars in better shape.
“It is kind of more of a team effort where everyone is together,” White said. “It definitely brings us together more. It is especially important because we are a team. I think it puts us on the same field, mentally.”
She also said the question-and-answer moments during practices also help make the Cougars a tight-knit bunch.
“You get to learn more about your teammates and that brings you together more,” White added.
Aside from the addition to the dynamic warmups, White and Bridges want the team to do more running to get the Cougars in tip-top condition. But the long winter and remaining snow has forced the Cougars to wait for warmer weather to introduce these new physical routines.
“Thia and I are hoping once we get to the high school, we can run more,” White said.”Our plan was to run from the high school to Milton Corner and back and then have our dynamic warm-ups. Right now, we are confined to running on the court so we don’t get our shoes muddy.”
Upham could’t be more proud of her co-captains, who have been playing for her for a combined seven years.
“They work well together; they like each other,” Upham said. “They compete with each other. They play against each other and are still friends at the end of the day.”
“Alyssa I think is an achiever,” Upham added. “I won’t call her an overachiever because whatever she tries, she does it. When she does it, she does it right.”
Upham was impressed when White told her coach she was going to attend a summer tennis camp.
“Not a lot of my girls do that,” Upham said. “She wanted to get get really good, and she has. She worked really hard. She worked for the Farmington Rec Department last year and taught youngsters tennis. 
“Thia is the one behind the T-shirt design,” Upham added. “She decided it was time to get something done on that. They are really cute shirts. They came up with some interesting stuff.”
But it is a combined effort from Bridges and White to devise a strength-and-conditioning routine and a new team-building format.
“Me and Alissa decided that we wanted to get the team in better shape this year,” Bridges explained. “This year we decided we wanted to do more long distance running and dynamic stuff because, if the team is in shape, we can play a little bit better.”
Bridges undertook the project of designing the new T-shirts for team and enlisted the commercial arts department at the high school to help with the production. The Cougars got a deal on the shirts, which cost team members $5 each.
She also helped introduce the team-building format and thinks the a running program is beneficial to the team’s future.
“Some people are hesitant because they are not in shape yet.,” Bridges said. “So they don’t want to run a long, but I think once we start doing it, everyone will get on board with it.”

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