Written by: Carmen Sandor
***Carmen Sandor is top 10 OTA junior member since under 14 category, ranked as high as 11th in Canada women’s. She is a member of the Penn State women’s tennis team.***
Chances are that if you are a junior player going into college you at some point have come across someone that has either played, or is currently playing college tennis. And chances are that your blistering curiosity has probably got the better of you and has lead you to asking them what THEIR college experience has been like. They probably told you about the work load, their tennis team, or the juggling act between tennis, school and having a life. Maybe they told you about their roommate or how the commons food has been conveniently easy on their time, taste buds and wallet but unfortunately -as you might be able to tell- not so convenient on their scale. College is a big decision that requires everyone to make their own set of difficult choices and everyone factors in different alternatives. The biggest one most juniors face is the question between which is more important: their tennis or their academics? Once you make this choice you will notice that you will start to weigh the pros and cons of all your choices. Until you eventually narrow it down. Sometimes the choice you make is just based on a gut feeling, something that instinctively lets you know that you could see this place being your home for the next four years. This usually happens after a first visit to the school.
For me it was a matter of development. I always knew I wanted to continue playing a high level of tennis and after the harsh reality that playing pro tournaments requires a lot more dedication, resilience and money than you might have originally imaged as a young, eager junior. I wasn’t ready mentally, physically or emotionally to face the daily “grind of the tour”, as many might call it. So my decision became easy. For many this realization might be a sad one to face, but for me I soon came to realize that competing in college brings a whole different dimension to playing tennis that you might not know exists as a junior or as a professional on the tour.
How many professionals or juniors do you know that have access to a full time psychologist? Or nutritionist? Or fitness trainer? Or an on-call doctor? To weekly competitive matches? And daily training rain or shine? It’s a tough standard to meet unless you have the financial means or happen to be in the top 20 internationally. Aside from that you are no longer playing for yourself, you are playing for a team; it’s a different pressure on your shoulders.
But as I said earlier, my experiences are unique to me; everyone faces different challenges during this process. Everyone has to make different choices depending on that particular moment in their lives. And the transition you make from junior or potential pro might come easily to you but may be more difficult for others. Change is a certainty in everyone’s life, so perhaps the best piece of advice I can give is to not forget to factor it in.