Life as a Tiger
I have heard from several parents, coaches, and college recruiters that – now that my son is a high school sophomore – we should be combining tournament travel with college campus visits, either official or unofficial, so my son can start to get a feel for what he likes and doesn’t like about various types of schools. This past weekend, we finally did just that.
We were in Baton Rouge for our Designated (Bullfrog) tournament. A couple of days before the tournament, my son emailed the LSU coach, Jeff Brown, to let him know we’d be in town in case he was available to meet or come watch my son play. And, it just so happens that a friend of my son’s, Harrison Kennedy, is a freshman on the LSU men’s tennis team, and it just so happens that the team was scheduled to play at home, so we took the opportunity to spend some time with Harrison picking his brain about life as an LSU Tiger.
Harrison graciously spent about 2 hours with us, showing us his apartment in the athletes’ housing quad and walking us all over the campus. We saw the dining hall, various athletic facilities, the student union, and the very cool building where Harrison takes his business classes. Harrison talked to us about a typical day and a typical week, stressing repeatedly how full his schedule is and how much tougher his training is as a college player versus during his junior tennis days. He also talked about how great it is being part of a team and the challenges of working his way into the lineup as a Freshman player. When he got to the part about the team’s track training – doing sprints and running the stadium – I could see the expression of horror on my son’s face! I don’t think he realized how intensely these athletes train day in and day out, even though he had certainly read about it on the Twitter feeds of the college players he follows there. There’s something about standing at the track, seeing how big it truly is, then looking up at the stadium and seeing its massive size, too, then hearing from a guy who’s doing it, to make you realize how tough it can be.
Harrison also talked about the academic requirements of being a student-athlete. He showed my son a couple of lecture halls and a couple of smaller classrooms and told him how the professors don’t care whether or not you show up for class. But, he added, the Athletic Director DOES care and has “classroom checkers” monitoring the athletes’ attendance. Harrison then explained the mandatory study hours and about the tutors available to help. He emphasized that the coaches WANT their athletes to be successful academically and will do their best to provide whatever assistance is necessary to achieve that goal.
Shortly after returning to our hotel, I saw a quote on the JBMThinks Twitter feed: “Obstacles are put in your way to see if what you want is really worth fighting for.” How timely! I couldn’t help but think that hearing about how tough college tennis life can be would give my son pause, would make him really stop and think about whether or not this is truly what he wants. My husband and I have always told our son that where he takes his tennis is 100% up to him. If he wants to play in college, great! If he doesn’t want to play in college, great! If he wants to try playing professionally, we’ll support that choice, too. But, we want him to make his decisions having as much knowledge and information as possible then committing completely to the path. Of course, if he changes his mind and chooses another path after giving it a fair shot, then we’re okay with that. We just want him to go into it with his eyes wide open.
The next day, I spent some time chatting with a junior coach at the tournament site about the training he does with his players. He invited my son to join them for some track and stadium training back in Atlanta. When I mentioned it to my son later that night, I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I would get – would he take the coach up on his offer and see how he handles the challenge or would he say no thanks and leave it at that? I was relieved and happy to hear my son say, “Cool! Sure, I’d love to go!” Looks like he’s up for the fight!