Written by: Dominique Harmath
***Dominique Harmath is a former Canadian Junior Champion who has always been at the top of her class in Canadian rankings. She just finished her sophomore year at Rice where she played at #1 in doubles and primarily at #2 in singles, had a 16-10 record in singles and 18-6 record in doubles.***
A couple of weeks ago a family friend was greatly entertained by my revelation over dinner explaining how I would not change a thing of the past and that some clichés do have merit. On her request, I shared my personal experiences with her thirteen year old daughter who was considering sports vs. “we all know what else is out there”. Junior results and a great coach were blessings, but negative thoughts had no doubt crossed my mind throughout my junior career. What if I lose to so and so? Will all this hard work pay off?
It was May this year, and I had just finished playing the NCAA tournament that was to mark the end of the 2011/12 tennis season. The year had its share of struggles trying to keep up with the demands of the student athlete life while fighting a chronic injury, and I was looking forward to the break as a dull summer was the last thing I had planned. The next day I was headed to Spain for a study-abroad experience.
I was in Basque country barely speaking the language in a study group where students already knew each other. After only a few days, I was eyeing my racquets, and the next thing I knew I was wandering the streets asking around for a local tennis club. Club de Tenis Pamplona became my home that changed my free time into a five-star active resort stay with friends from all walks of life. I had an incredible time and met some great people through tennis. I became familiar with the locals, the culture and the language, and I could not have had the full experience without the sport. I played every day because I wanted to, it simply felt right. I suddenly belonged, and it wasn’t for my Castellano.
Apparently, study abroad helps in acquiring cultural intelligence, big buzz words in higher education. But the drive, knowledge, strategy and action came from the sport. Tennis gives you much more than just victories, it takes you places. “Keep up the hard work,” cliché, but true. It’s worth it.