What I learned and how it shaped my life
Throughout my high school career, I had no idea where I wanted to go to college and if I wanted to play college tennis. Don’t get me wrong – I love tennis. It is a passion of mine and I was extremely motivated in high school to outwork everyone else and be the best. But, the idea of playing at the competitive college level frightened me and I worried about time management, friendships, and free time. In the end, I could not let tennis go and decided to play.
It was the best decision of my life.
First off, my teammates became my best friends. For those of you entering a new college in a new town or state with no connections, having a team is an instant way to form bonds and meet girls/guys you will be spending every day with. My teammates are always there to offer me advice on my game, make me smile when I am down, or just to talk to about life! I improved very quickly having teammates to always push me in practice. Many of my teammates have played tennis longer than I have and know how to win long points. Having to battle for each and every point built my resilience on the court and prepared me for tough matches against our opponents.
Having an accessible coach, as well, was an incredible asset. In high school, I had to travel miles to meet up with my coach and only saw him/her a few times a week. In college, however, I could talk to my coach whenever I had a question and she became both my life mentor and a great friend. My coach helped me thrive mentally on the court and in school and organized workouts around my strengths and weaknesses to help me grow as a player. This is something I never received at home, so my tennis game improved rapidly.
In addition to the members of the team, being part of the athletics program has fantastic perks: access of facilities, earlier class registration, dorm preference, free stringers/racket bags, uniforms, etc. While not every school offers these perks, you will definitely find unique advantages to being an athlete.
My favorite perk was having someone construct a workout for you every day. You do not have to worry yourself about what the best exercise is to improve or when to workout. Rather, your schedule is set for you. You just have to show up hydrated and ready to go and give it your best. That is what I love about college tennis.
For those of you that are still unsure or are just starting college tennis, here is some advice:
- Balance your schedule. The fall season is a lot lighter than the spring in regards to tennis so I recommend taking 15-18 credits in the fall and 12-15 credits in the spring. Spring can get a bit crazy at times; there is a lot of travel, playing every weekend, etc so having one less class to manage is helpful.
- Time management is crucial to keep up with your school, practice, and social schedules. Swimming World offers some great general time management tips for student-athletes. Overall, though, time management depends on your school and your team’s schedule. For my team, we practice twice a day every day. Once at 6:30 am – 8 am and a second time from 3-6 PM. So, my evenings I did homework and met up with friends. I struggled at first mentally with everything that was going on. I felt overwhelmed by my schedule and trying to manage my social and personal life as well. To combat this feeling, take a break. Decompressing is so important, I discovered. Even if it is just 15 minutes a day, make sure to take time to be alone and just clear your mind.