Hermantown, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Hermantown junior tennis player Joel Gustafson went deep into the 2013 Section 7A playoffs, and at least part of the credit has to go to his older brothers.
They were there when Gustafson was younger, and they were never far off when he needed a playing partner.
"It's more fun to have a built-in-partner all the time and to be able to call my brothers and say, 'Hey, let's go hit,'" Gustafson said, "and know that I'm going to get better because they're all better than me anyway."
They may not be better for long though. Joel was a member of the Longview Junior Team that won the United States Tennis Association (USTA) sectionals this summer in Brainerd.
"We won those this year which was thrilling," Gustafson said. "That doesn't happen too often. We got to go to the Baseline Tennis Center in the University of Minnesota in the Cities as a team."
"That's kind of a goal they had, and they did very well," Longview tennis instructor Willie Paul said. "They placed down there. Last year we didn't make it, and this year we made it so there's only improvement."
It's a team that made improvement with players from all around the Northland.
"We're just part of a Duluth in general team, not a Duluth East team, not a Duluth Denfeld team, not a Duluth Marshall team, not a Hermantown team," Gustafson said, "so it brings us together in a way that wouldn't happen otherwise."
It also gives Gustafson a chance to make an impact on younger players.
"Just by being able to watch him, the younger kids have seen that that's the right way to do things," Paul said. "He plays at high school and never has any problem with anybody, everybody loves him. He's such a nice guy. It's special to have a kid like Joel around here to help out everybody."
"It's a way to demonstrate what they can do if they work hard," Gustafson said.
And if he continues to work hard, it'll be his brothers that find themselves on the losing end next time they play.
"It's coming, watch out," promised the little brother.