Making the Varsity Team
Every coach will run their program differently, and the same coach may mix things up drastically from year to year. So, nothing is set in stone, but here are things that may help you earn a spot on varsity if that is your goal.
Get Better: At the end of the day, barring some exceptions, coaches want to have the school's best players on the varsity team. Do what you can to prove that you are one of the top 12 players in the school. That won't be everything, but it's a heck of a start.
Be Ready for the Season: If you haven't touched a racquet in 6 months, you are probably not ready to show how good you are. If you can't take advantage of indoor opportunities, February will have many dry days, and the walls under covers at LR and ER are a great place to knock the rust off.
Practice Match Play: One recent year, the coaches made guesses as to who would come out on top during tryouts. They agreed on who the most likely candidates were based on just watching people. Then the match play part of the tryouts came and the coaches were proved very wrong. Players with nice looking strokes lost because those strokes went to the wrong places. Players who had figured out where to be, where to hit and how to win points earned the spots. Please, feel free to develop nice shots, but don't forget that you need to learn how to use them to win points as well. George Fox will have indoor courts to rent for $15/hour. Grab 3 friends and go play matches. Ask a coach to help find opponents if you need.
Practice Outside: Lots of people are practicing inside during the winter. Going back out into the wind and sun is VERY different. Make sure to practice outside to get an edge. Practice outside on really windy days to really be prepared.
Prove That You Can Contribute: Varsity teams will have 15 or so players for 12 spots. You may not be one of the top 12, but what makes a good #13-15 player?
A rising star who will contribute later in the season or next year
A good leader and good teammate
A hard-worker who can inspire others
A dedicated team-member who is willing to contribute however they can
Get in Shape: Players who come to practice on day 1 and are not fit enough to play long matches are suggesting to the coach that they aren't really very interested in being a varsity player. The girls team does a 1.5 mile run in the first week of practice. That distance should be no problem for you at a decent jog. The way high school tennis works, you'll have 3 types of matches:
Easy wins that are quick and don't require a ton of fitness. You'll probably win either way in about an hour. Honestly, someone lower on the line-up could probably win this easily too.
"Easy" losses that are quick and don't require a ton of fitness. You'll probably lose either way in about an hour.
Close matches. These can easily go over 2 hours. If you want to play in these matches, the coach needs to know you can handle it.
So, if you can only handle about an hour of play, you are only good enough for matches 1 and 2. In those cases, someone with a lower skill level can perform just as well as you, but they also have value in close matches too. Be fit - don't give the coach reason to wonder if your fitness is reason to sit you out.
Get Quick: You can win a lot of tennis matches with below average shots if you can simply get to a lot of balls and put them back in play. It's more about how quickly you can get moving than how fast your top speed is. Practice split steps and moving quickly from there. And don't forget to get ready quickly after hitting - that's where a lot of people are slow. If you don't know what those are or need a reminder on how to do them, go here.
Have a Good Attitude: It is a team sport, and most players end up playing doubles. Show that you'll be a good partner.
Work Hard: If a coach looks at you and thinks, "That person does not want to be here", do you expect them to pick you to be part of the varsity team? Show energy, run hard for balls.
Commit: Players who treat tennis as their top extra-curricular activity during the season have a better chance to make the team than people who have lots of other commitments.
Communicate with the Coach: Maybe you are sick for try-outs, maybe you are in the band and have conflicts, maybe you have a job or drivers ed and occasionally have to miss Wednesdays. Sometimes those are deal-breakers, and sometimes they are not. Take time before the season to tell the coach, express an interest in being a varsity athlete - maybe you can work out something. If your friend did that already, do NOT expect that rule to also apply to you, even if you are in an identical situation or a top player. The willingness to communicate and have the tough conversation is part of why the coach is doing what they are doing for that player. That won't extend to you because you are their friend.
Get Registered: It is hard to earn a spot on the varsity team if you can't try-out because you didn't get your physical or registration paperwork done in time. Messing that up also tells the coach that you really aren't very interested.