Christian HarrisA couple of years ago, we were at a designated tournament in Mobile, Alabama, and my son struck up a conversation with a young man from South Carolina who was 2 years ahead of him in school. That conversation was the beginning of what was to become a really important relationship for my son.

The young man, Christian Harris, is now a freshman playing tennis for Clemson University. He and my son have stayed in regular contact, even playing each other in a sectional tournament last year, and Christian has become one of my son’s mentors in terms of college recruiting.

When my son was ready to begin contacting college coaches, the first person he reached out to was Christian, asking him the best things to say in that introductory email and getting his input on which coaches and programs to approach. Christian has checked in with – and guided – my son along the way, offering suggestions and support.

This weekend, the Southern Intercollegiate Championships was played in Athens, Georgia, a short 75-minute drive from our house. Christian texted my son to let him know he would be playing and would love for my son to come watch and have the chance to meet his coach and teammates. What a great opportunity! We headed over to Athens on Saturday, arriving about 30 minutes before Christian’s scheduled match time. I left my son to hang out with his friend/mentor and indulged myself in some pretty exciting tennis around the UGA complex. Christian talked to my son about how things are going at Clemson so far – balancing tennis and academics, finding time for a social life (a tough challenge for these student-athletes, for sure!), and trying to stay healthy through it all.

After Christian’s match, I had the chance to chat with him for a minute about what it means to be a mentor. Here’s what he had to say:

What was so interesting to me was to hear that Christian had had his own mentor, Harrison Kennedy, who has also been a valuable friend and resource to us, and is now paying it forward to my son. If your junior is lucky enough to find an older player who can help him/her navigate the various intricacies of tennis, be grateful! It is truly a gift, one that I hope each of our own children will pay forward to those coming up behind them.