This week's Scholarship Guide will give you some insights into the daily routine of a student athlete. To be more specific - of a college tennis player. Having been a college tennis player myself at one of the United States' top universities for four years, I will show you what it's like, being a student athlete.
People keep on asking us what life as college tennis player is like. How intense are the workouts? How often do you practice? How tough are the classes? How important is your performance on the court?
There are so many questions not only prospective student athletes, but also their coaches have and it is basically impossible to answer all of them throughout the length of this article. Keep in mind that every university and every college tennis program is different and experiences and expectations can and will differ significantly because of that.
I will tell you a little bit about my personal experience as collegiate athlete today. I graduated from a small, private liberal arts university, with a bachelor of science in business administration. The tennis program has been and still is one of the top programs in the United States and the expectations were always to reach new heights and set new standards. This background information is highly important since it shaped my life as a student athlete.
And hopefully by the end of this article, you have a feeling similar to: "Yes, I could see myself having this life - how can I get there?" If so, take a look at our offer on Smarthlete, register with a free tennis recruiting profile right away and start talking to coaches already today!
To this day this is one of the worst memories of my college experience - waking up every morning. Not because I was having long party nights or anything, but because I was always tired and had the worst alarm ringtone one could possibly have. Unfortunately, my cell phone at that time didn't allow me to change, so I was stuck with it for quite a while.
Even though I only lived five minutes walking distance from the business school, I still managed to come late to class every other day. Luckily our university was rather small with only 4,000 undergraduate students - consequently classes were small as well with roughly 20 to 40 students, which meant that by the third week teachers mostly cut me some slack since they already knew that I had the worst time management skills.
The classes and teachers themselves were pretty good to be honest. Due to the small class sizes, the curriculum had mostly a very practical approach. In most classes we ended up having at least one presentation and one group project. This system really encouraged me to actively engage and reflect on the subjects instead of learning it by heart and forgetting all right after the exam. Obviously exams also played an important role, but I'd say that on average the exams accounted for roughly 65% of the final grade. The remaining 35% were determined by class participation, papers, group projects, and presentations.
Even nowadays I'm not a great chef and I was an even worse one throughout college. My cooking skills were limited to Spaghetti, Ramen Noodles and Pancakes. Luckily there was a Subway and a Jimmy John's right under my apartment, which made life a lot easier. Unfortunately, it did not foster the development of my skills in the kitchen.
This was the most flexible time of my day. Depending on my physical condition I either did some homework or went to our physical trainer to do some sort of rehab or prepare for practice. Mostly I ended up going to our physical trainer though. Sometimes I went there, even though I wasn't hurt at all. The training room is the one room where all the student athletes met on a daily basis to exchange the latest news and gossip. At our school most student athletes knew each other, which made those visits in the training room quite entertaining. Nonetheless, I have to state that in most cases, I was in the training room due to some minor injury. The intense practices and competitions really took a toll on my body over the course of four years.
At 2:30 pm tennis practice started. We had a great facility on campus with 6 outdoor courts, right next to the soccer field. Every practice session was about two and a half hours long and really intense in most cases. As previously stated, our program was a nationally ranked NCAA D1 program with the ambition of reaching new heights every year. Therefore our coaches pushed us hard on a day to day basis - and I'm glad they did. At the time, it was tough to leave it all out there every single day, but looking back I know it taught me more life lessons than anything else. Before going to college I definitely underestimated the level of tennis and the level of intensity. Practices are very professional and the overarching rule is to always leave it all out there. If one of our guys didn't give 100% or threw a racquet, the whole team was punished through the means of a few highly intense and tiring exercises. The only two places I have experienced group punishments so far are the military and in college sports. One can argue about its pedagogical relevance these days, but it's hard to argue with its effectiveness.
Two to three times a week we had conditioning after tennis. Mostly we went to the gym and did some lifting which was usually very fun. Intense, but fun. Every now and then we also had an intense sprint interval program though. Those were the days at least one of us almost threw up after practice.
Dead tired the team mostly had dinner together in one of the university's cafeterias. This was my favorite part of the day. Just sitting, eating, chatting, and relaxing. The cafeteria was always a place I could hang out for hours without getting bored. I usually had an unlimited meal plan, which meant that I could eat as much as I want - and I definitely took advantage of that.
This was the toughest part of the day. The downside of a practically oriented curriculum is that there are tasks due constantly. Every other day some sort of paper or exercise was to be handed in, which meant that I had to finish up some homework before going to bed. After roughly three and a half hours of practice, it was quite difficult to focus. But not handing in the homework wasn't an option either so I usually tried to be as efficient as possible. I generally finished all my tasks in an hour and a half or two. If I managed to do so, I still had time to hang out with friends afterwards to play some pool, FIFA or watch some series. This was one of the advantages of going to a small school - I was within a ten minute walking distance of all my friends, which is quite convenient in regards to one's social life.
At midnight I finally ended up going to bed most of the time. I generally tried to make it to bed earlier to get eight hours of sleep, but I rarely managed to do so.
This was my life on a day to day basis for four years throughout my time as a college tennis player. To be honest there were times, where I thought of quitting. But I am glad I didn't because in the end it was all worth it. The joy I got from travelling, hanging out, competing and celebrating with my teammates and friends outweighed the struggles by far. So if you think about playing college tennis - GO FOR IT! It's totally worth it. Just know that it is tougher than most people think and start your college experience with the right mindset and expectation.