In an age of “athletics at the expense of academics,” a Mansfield tennis player is finding the right balance to make both work to her advantage.Kay Curtis, a junior, has found that coordinating with teachers and coaches allows for her to fit a key art class into her schedule and still play varsity tennis.Taking an upper level art class which also allows for college credit, Curtis was pressed for setting priorities when the class was only offered during the last block period of the day – the same time as tennis practice.But through the cooperation of head tennis coach John Stafford and the faculty, Curtis attends class first, then heads directly to the courts to practice or to a match.Curtis has been playing tennis starting with lessons in sixth grade and continually plays in USTA tournaments.She’s been an avid artist for at least as long.“Since I can remember, I’ve been in art,” Curtis said.Stafford said the ability to accommodate both tennis and art is achievable due to the Curtis’ dedication and ability to adapt.“She’s really dedicated and mature for her age,” Stafford said. “She is very motivated to do both.”Loaded with seniors, Tigers were the fall season’s district champions and regional qualifiers.Now, with all but two varsity players returning next season, Curtis will be expected to carry much of the leadership roles.“I haven’t really thought about needing to step up as a leader,” Curtis said. “We’re all pretty much friends and equal on the court. We do pick on the freshmen to go squeegee the court,” she said about passing down the tradition of relegated chores on the team.“She won’t have to think about trying to be a leader,” Stafford said. “She’s very grounded and does everything 100 percent. She’s a leader by example in the classroom and on the court.”Asked if there’s any correlation to her skills as an artist and playing tennis, Curtis conjectured that the hand-eye coordination aspect may play a role. “I don’t know if one really helps the other,” she said.But it’s the cerebral aspect of the game that intrigues Curtis.“I like the thinking and strategy part,” she said. “In tennis, you’re making more of the decisions and it’s up to you to think up your own strategy.”Curtis said her teammates understand her special situation and she doesn’t miss out on much of the workouts other than initial warm-ups and drills. Conditioning, she said, is saved for the end of practice.“If we’re playing a match, I can leave class a little early,” Curtis said. “If I miss warm-ups, I tell my opponent I need a little warm-up time and they understand.”Curtis will continue to play throughout the summer in preparation for the fall season which will kick in to high gear early in the school year.