Your Serve: Team Building
A college senior says going from playing for herself to playing for her Division 1 team has given her a new appreciation for the sport, and career goals she’s excited to pursue.
By Jordana Klein
November 11, 2010: my 18th birthday, the day I signed my National Letter of Intent, and the day I could officially call myself a Division 1 collegiate athlete.
Growing up an only child in Alpharetta, Ga, my parents ensured I tried just about every sport possible. After sixth grade, I realized my passions lay on the volleyball and tennis courts, so I competed in those two sports in middle school and high school.
The thought of taking on college academics while playing two sports crossed my mind, but I knew if I wanted to compete at the highest level, I would have to make a decision between volleyball and tennis. I ultimately chose tennis because it’s a sport I can enjoy for the rest of my life. The people around the sport as well as the individual yet competitive aspect of the game helped in my decision, too. I consider my coach, who I’ve trained with since age 9, a second father, and he’s one of the many reasons why I’ll stay in and around tennis for years to come.
As a college athlete, the glory I felt after committing to play subsided the second I stepped onto the court for my first practice in August 2011. I realized, for the next four years, I was not only attending college as a student, but I also had a coach and teammates to hold me accountable for just about everything. Practices, conditioning, team meetings and study hall would consume my “free time,” and the other hours of the day would be dedicated to studying, eating and hopefully catching up on sleep. I was proud, however, knowing I was in the 3 percent of individuals with a Division 1 college athletic scholarship.
It took about two weeks to figure out a normal routine of tennis, academics, and social life. I spend about 90 percent of my time in athletic clothes, but I love the looks I get when classmates read my shirt and realize I compete for their school. I will always be proud to represent my school’s athletic program on and off the court.
I worked for over a decade through sweat, injuries and tears for this. Nights of little to no sleep turned into days of workouts before school and practices after. Party and dinner invitations ended up being thrown away because of a grueling tournament schedule, even during “off season.” In college, I soon found out there is never an off-season. When I’m not traveling for tournaments and matches, I’m in the gym or on the court practicing. During summer breaks, I gave up traveling opportunities to go home, train with my coach, and take a few summer classes. But the glory of the sport came after I realized my sacrifices would lead to victories.
Spending so much time with tennis gave me a new appreciation for coaches and professionals at all levels. Coaches deal with countless behind-the-scenes issues and conflicts just to ensure their teams will have flawless reputations and winning records. The time and energy they spend developing strategies, practice plans and budgeting is often taken for granted by many, but not by me.
As I enter my senior year, I’m so happy that I decided on a profession that will allow me to spend time around the tennis and sports industries, and I plan to join ALTA and USTA leagues after graduation. Pursuing sports marketing and journalism will allow me to always be around tennis and continue being a part of this incredible community. The friends I have made around tennis, as well as the connections and relationships that have developed, I will cherish for a lifetime. And I even enjoy coaching on the side during summer break.
After years of competing for my own personal victories, I appreciate the team aspect college tennis provides. We win together, lose together, make mistakes together, tackle each other’s personal issues together, and work through the bad and celebrate the great together. I cannot think of a better feeling than earning a point toward my team’s ultimate score and eventually triumphing over our opponent.
I am forever grateful that I am able to play what I consider the greatest sport, for a team that I consider family.
Georgia Southern University tennis team member Jordana Klein, from Alpharetta, Ga., will be a senior this fall majoring in journalism.
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