Remember the days where you were living out of your tennis bag, trekking from one tournament to another, eating on a tight budget?
Those were the days where the most important person in your athletic career was you. Back then when you walked onto the court you walked as an individual. You won as an individual. In college, you step on the court with eight other girls behind you and you win for your team.
One of the hardest transitions you will have in college and especially for tennis is, learning how to be a team player. Tennis is not a team sport and so this transition is not easy, because it’s not about you anymore.
You have to be prepared to deal with situations as a team and take responsibility for a win and loss as a team. Understand that your energy, level of commitment and discipline is not a reflection of you, but of yourselves as a unit.
Bad energy is toxic. A disease. It will spread and infect others around you so set negative feelings aside when they arise and do your best not to show them.
Learn to love the people that you will spend mostly every waking hour with and learn to accept that you are not all the same and you are most likely not all from the same culture.
Acceptance of one another is a good place to start. Accept that what might be normal in one culture is not in the other.
Be open to learning from your international teammates and vice versa. You will discover and open your mind to cultural customs you didn’t know existed, which will teach you important life lessons and values.
You will see members of your team at their best and their worst. You will spend hours on a cramped bus together, you will eat several meals together and you will grow as people together.
One of the most difficult things however, is learning how to not let your energy affect and bring down your team.
When you have been slaving on the court for hours and hours, get to that third set and lose 7-6, sulking in the restroom afterwards is a no go.
You shake your opponent’s hand, grab a bag of ice and start cheering your brains out for the teammate next to you. Because that is your duty as a member of the team.
You have to be selfless. Put yourself second. Before college it might have been acceptable to throw headphones in and stare out of the window on the road home after a tough weekend. But not now.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of stepping on the bus, putting the beats on and falling asleep. While that is okay for a couple of hours, don’t make it a habit.
Engage with your teammates. Talk, play a silly game on the bus or watch movies together. Savor and share these moments because they are what solidify the bonds between you.
Again, this is something alien to us tennis players.
When you feel down or lonely, I promise you there is at least one other person on your team feeling the same way. The whole point of being on a team is to be there for each other in these kinds of situations.
Check in with your teammates, let them know you want to know how they are really feeling so you can help talk them through it.
Some of the experiences you will have on a college team will be some that will stick with you for the rest of your life. The best wins, losses, meals, hotel stays and weekends will be spent with your team.
In that unfortunate moment where you hate every single one of them, or someone irritates you or drama begins to circulate, remember these people are your family.
A family deals and perseveres through struggles. A family supports each other through thick and thin, and a family must let things go.
For these four years, this team is your family and you should treat them like it. Even in the most testing of times when all you want is to be alone, remember they are there for you and one day they wont be, so don’t take them for granted.
Journalist and and former Student Athlete Athena Chrysanthou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.Posted by