To continue chasing the dream of becoming a professional tennis player, or taper down competitive play in order to continue with education is a decision most Australian tennis players are faced during the final years of high school. This was true for me in 2008 when I finished high school and needed to take the time to make a serious decision that would impact my future. I didn’t want to stop playing tennis at a high level – and thanks to college tennis, I didn’t have to.
In June 2009 I was fortunate enough to sign with the University of Oregon, giving me the opportunity to become a student athlete for the ducks. The best decision I have ever made. The facilities at the University of Oregon, sometimes called ‘The University of Nike’ because of the strong relationship with Nike, are unreal. I have to access to everything and anything I could ever need to succeed.
Playing college tennis is an amazing experience, and I would encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to do so, to take it up. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I made the move to Eugene, Oregon in January 2010, but thankfully I had 11 brothers – 2 coaches, and 9 teammates to steer me in the right direction. Three years on, I bleed green and yellow (fortunately my school colours double as the Australian ones!). Playing on a college team, representing a school of over 20, 000 students is an amazing thing. The intensity, the desire, the highs and the lows are all things could not possibly be replicated in any other scenario.
I choose the college tennis pathway because it enabled me not only to continue playing tennis, but more importantly for me, to get a tertiary education allowing me to start a new career when my tennis career is finished. Despite this, college becomes more than just tennis and education; it is the opportunity of a lifetime. The college way of life is a journey, starting off as kids; we will leave as independent men and women. Living by yourself in another country forces you to grow as a person. Throughout my time I have made friendships that I know will last a life time, both on my time and outside of. My team trains super hard, the team unity created is something I never could have expected, and when the day ends I go home to my apartment where I live with 3 friends, take care of my schoolwork and prepare for the next day.
I could write all day about how much I advocate this pathway, but to keep it simple – college tennis, in my opinion is the way to go. There are no certainties in life; college tennis allows both your education and tennis to continue to grow. The process of getting into college can be a long, drawn out one, but it is absolutely worth it. As I write this I am training hard daily for my senior year – the time has gone all too quick. I really hope more young kids here in Australia take the college pathway, it really is a once in a life time opportunity, and something I promise you will never regret.