***Editors note: Katie’s story is interesting because she did not come through the usual ranks of junior competition, but yet she has managed to pursue her dream. She embodies the qualities of perseverance and work ethics while pursuing her dream.***
Sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I had success with track and field and cross-country running throughout elementary and high school, during which I also played volleyball on my school team and for a club team. I took up horseback riding when I was six years old and competed up until I was seventeen. I became involved in tennis recreationally when I was quite young, and I really liked the competitive nature of the game because it required me to work hard and persevere. I feel very fortunate to have learned such valuable life skills throughout my youth because of my involvement in sports.
In my grade eleven year at high school I began to play tennis more often and became passionate about the game, to the point that I was determined to raise my game to a higher level. I had to make a very difficult decision because if I wanted to improve at tennis I would have to narrow my focus with regards to academics and tennis if I wanted to meet my goals. I decided I needed to leave my school, which I attended for 5 years, and go to a semester school so I could have more time during the day to train. I missed out on graduating with my friends, but I was happy that I was able to work towards a goal I set for myself. I wanted to play tennis at an American College on a D1, D2 or D3 school team, so I had my work cut out for me.
In order for me to achieve my goal I needed to take one more year after high school to train and improve my game. My parents were skeptical at first but when they realized that this was the only chance I would get to become serious about a sport, they agreed to my idea and they have supported me every step of the way. I felt a lot of external pressure to be in school because none of my friends were taking a GAP year; they had all decided to go straight to university. It is a challenge to be doing something different, but I continue to remind myself that I get to wake up every morning and do something I love, and if I keep working hard I’ll be able to play tennis competitively for four more years while I get my education.
After I graduated from Blyth Academy High School in April, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to go to Sanchez Casal tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain. There, I studied Spanish and worked on my tennis for a month. When I arrived back to Toronto I began training at Toronto Tennis City with Pierre, Hiroud and Ben, and I found that it was very inspiring to be training in a group with so many talented players and coaches. I persevered all summer, played OTA tournaments, and began to study for my SAT’s in the fall. Pierre suggested I get some college advice and help from Greg Novak, and have my video filmed by Remus Moldovan. Once my SAT scores were high enough, my video was finished and my profile was complete, I began connecting with coaches with the help of Greg. I received many D2 offers, a D1 offer, and D3 expressions of interest. It was a very exciting time, but after a lot of thought and research I felt I had not found a school suited to me.
Last year I met a member at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club named Coulter Wright who has since then become an inspiration and has helped me along my journey. He suggested the University of New Mexico, among other colleges. I did my research and felt I could really visualize myself succeeding at UNM. I communicated with the coach and was offered a walk-on position on the team. I went to visit the school during the last week of January, and had a great time. I met the coach and the team, toured the facilities, and watched a dual match at the school. I also had the opportunity to meet with an academic advisor for the student athletes. The school has high academic standards for its athletes, so they offer a wide range of academic support.
I am excited about the opportunity I have to be a student athlete at an amazing university in such a beautiful city. Under Pierre’s guidance I am training hard every day on court and in the fitness room, and every day I notice my improvement. I have been so fortunate to have talented and supportive people to guide me along the way and I am grateful for the chance to pursue one of my dreams. Throughout this journey I have learned that anything is possible if you persevere and have a disciplined work ethic.