The youngest of Dan and Trish Skaer’s three sons, 16-year-old Max Skaer learned to play the game of tennis the right way.
Taught the basics of the sport by his dad, Max, with the help of his brothers Ty and Aaron, developed his skills through countless hours of practice on courts throughout the east end of Belleville — more specifically the courts at Belleville East High School where Dan Skaer is the longtime boys tennis coach.
Competition on the courts was never hard to find. Family doubles matches that included dad, Max, and Ty and Aaron, both all-Southwestern Conference players at East, were interesting to say the least.
“We’re brothers and very competitive in every sport we play. It doesn’t matter if it’s tennis, ping pong, basketball ... everything,” Max Skaer said. “We really like playing doubles with my dad. Those are fun.
“But honestly, it’s helped having two brothers who play tennis. I’ve tried to take what they did right and what they did wrong to help make me a better player.”
And in 2017, Max Skaer is a much better player.
With recent wins over Andy Graf of Mascoutah and Zach Trimpe of Edwardsville, Skaer has established himself as a player with the ability to earn a top 16 seed in singles for the Class 2A State Tennis Tournament in three weeks in suburban Chicago.
Skaer, who is currently ranked in the mid 30s in the 18 and under division of the Missouri Valley Tennis Circuit, finished 1-2 in his first trip to the state finals a year ago.
But with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Trimpe, also a sophomore, a little over a week ago, Skaer appears to be a player who could contend for a possible top 10 finish.
“They only seed the top 16 and so that’s kind of a goal for me. I’ve beaten some good players this year, and so hopefully, if I don’t have any ‘bad’ matches, I’ve got a chance,” Skaer said. “The win over Trimpe was a good one. There were a lot of very good rallies, and there were no easy points. He’s a very good player.
“I’ve worked hard on my game and I’ve gotten a lot taller and stronger than I was last year. I’m faster and just moving a lot better around the court. My serve in better, and I’m learning to come to the net more.”
While competition with his brothers and playing with the best 18 and under players in the Midwest during the summer on the Missouri Valley Circuit have helped Max take his game to the next level, his love for the sport and attention to the fundamentals have been instilled in him by his dad.
An excellent player at the college level years ago, Dan Skaer has spent innumerable hours feeding tennis balls to his sons over the past 12 to 15 years.
In truth, Dan Skaer wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
“It’s been a lot of fun and extremely rewarding for me to be around and have the opportunity to coach my sons. I have a daughter too, Joanna, who plays; she’s a freshman here at East,” Dan Skaer said. “Max has more ability than Ty and Aaron — well, he matured faster mentally. It took the other two longer to get used to playing good tennis at a higher level.
“Max loves the game and he’s almost like having an assistant coach because he’s so diligent on wanting to improve and doing whatever is necessary to take his game to the next level. He still has a ways to go, but he wants to know what he needs to work on and then will work on whatever aspect of his game that needs to improve. Like I said, he’s like an assistant coach in that respect.”
With his recent wins, Max figures to be the top seed at the O’Fallon Sectional, May 19-20. A win there would no doubt put him line for possibly reaching his first goal of the postseason, a top 16 seed at the state finals, the second goal a possible top 10 finish.
“I’m playing well and have had a good season. The goal is to be in the top 16 at state and hopefully in the top 10,” Skaer said. “The long range goal is to play college tennis in two or three years? I really don’t know where yet. Hopefully someplace a little warmer.”