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UT Tyler Tennis Team Picture

College Tennis in the US – The life as a student-athlete

Leony Deutschmann shares her college tennis experience in the US as a Freshman at the University of Texas at Tyler.

My name is Leony Deutschmann, and I’m a German tennis player who is currently a freshman at the University of Tyler at Texas. I want to take you on a journey of my life as a student-athlete competing in college tennis.

Why did I decide to play college tennis in the first place?

I decided to come to the USA to play college tennis because I strived to combine my higher education with my tennis passion. In no other country, you will get such a tremendous amount of support completing your higher education while playing tennis on a high level. So, I was more than excited to become part of college tennis, receive a tennis scholarship, and international education. It is never easy to leave the beloved home, especially considering that my idol will always be my father. We are very similar in many ways. He loves to play football or go for a run. It was his passion for athletics that showed me how to enjoy and succeed on the court. He always believed in me and my strengths, and without him, I would have never made the step to move to the USA and follow my dream. 

How does a typical day of a college tennis player look like?

My day usually starts with a morning class at around 8 or 9.30 am. As some of my classes were moved to in-person, I stay on campus, and grab something for breakfast before we have practice from 11.30am to 1.30 pm. After that, we get lunch with the team in our cafeteria. Some of my teammates receive treatment by the athletic trainers after practice and join us later. I then stay in one of our study areas on the campus, where I do my homework until 5 pm. On most of the days, I go to the gym in the early evening, because during the season, we don’t have scheduled strength training with the team and also no practice in the evening. In the preseason, we have weights twice a week, as well as night practices from 7 to 9 pm. My day ends at 10 pm, after eating dinner with my rommates at home and ´then watching a movie with them.

How is your academic experience as a student-athlete?

I’m majoring in Health Science, as I’ve always been interested in nutrition and physiology. The University of Texas at Tyler is top-rated for the health department, which includes nursing, and health science. Hopefully, I will find my way into practicing medicine at some point in my studies, because the medical field interests me. Currently, I’m taking five classes, including four core classes, which provide a broad educational foundation. I wanted to have an effortless start in my first semester to get used to studying in English, and living in a new country. Around 10 to 20 students attend these classes, so they are not significantly crowded, which creates a familiar athmosphere. My teachers are always supportive and offer additional zoom study sessions or even their phone numbers to be available as often as possible; this is especially helpful for for athletes and international students. For example, when I am not able to attend classes because of matches, they understand the situation and even extend due dates.

School work, such as assignments or papers take around two hours of work every day. I usually study with my friends in our university center or at home during the afternoon. In this way, I finish assignments on time and score well in my exams. Before Covid, first-year students had to go to a mandatory study hall to ensure that they can handle the academic workload. However, due to the pandemic and my good grades, I did not need to go there.

How would you describe your practice and the facilities at the university?

Our tennis center has eight outdoor courts with floodlights. We don’t have indoor courts, but Texas‘ weather is nice most of the year; therefore, we play outside all year. The college tennis season is in spring and during our season, the practice schedule depends on our match schedule. On most days, we practice for 2-3 hours where our 3 coaches pick out players to work with them individually on different things, but we don’t have scheduled individual practice. Most of the time we have 2 to 4 players on the court. When we play some fun games, we tend to have all the team on one court. During the season, we focus more on recovery days and stretching sessions in the weight room, which is beneficial to be best prepared for our matches. In the off-season, we emphasize weight and strengthening training. The courts and the gym can be accessed by our players at any time.

Please share with us your experience on a college tennis match day?

A matchday at my college starts with a breakfast with my roomies at home if we don’t have classes before the match begins. We usually eat toast or oatmeal. Our team meets one hour and 15 min before the match starts to prepare the courts and to warm up properly. Our warm-up routine includes running, stretching, and hitting balls. We listen to motivational music and pump up songs to get into the right mood for the match. All the girls warm up, but only the six best players play in the line-up. As a first-year student, I played number 1 doubles and number 3 singles during the whole season, and I’m happy with these positions.

The atmosphere during the match is not comparable to a German atmosphere. We cheer each other’s names, and our team mascot attending our matches as well. Everybody answers then, and we try to be on every court mentally with our teammates. Our goal is to be cheerful and supportive throughout the match and show our opponents the team spirit we have!

How is the university campus, and where do you eat?

The University of Texas at Tyler is a public university in Tyler, Texas. The UT Tyler Campus is 400 acres big and has an amount of about 10,000 students. The campus contains 24 academic buildings, five housing complexes, and athletic departments, including the tennis center, a soccer field, a baseball, and a softball field, and the trainer’s department with the gym and a pool. Everything is close and within walking distance. The two lakes on campus provide a beautiful atmosphere for students to gather together and study or have lunch outside.

All student-athletes have a meal plan depending on the scholarship, giving them the possibility to get food from the cafeteria or food stalls in the university center. I can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the cafeteria, and it is an all-you-can-eat buffet. We can also get Einstein’s, Subway, Chick-Fil-A, and Starbucks and pay with dining dollars. I’m a vegetarian, which isn’t a problem because all food options have vegetarian and sometimes even vegan meals.

Do you have access to athletic trainers?

Yes, as a student-athlete, you can book a trainer appointment online and get free treatment. We can get, for example, an ice bath, a massage, stretching, or cupping. Even after home matches, at least one trainer is at the courts and can help us with whatever we need. The trainer facility is near our gym, where we have weight and recovery sessions. We have a public gym for all university students and another gym for the college sports teams. Additionally, we have a pool and a whirlpool. I often go to the gym by myself because I enjoy working out and sometimes my roomies join me.

Looking back on my first year at UT Tyler:

Altogether, I’m delighted with my decision to come to UT Tyler and join the women’s tennis team. I have an excellent relationship with the coaches, which help me develop my game on the court. Although it is my first semester, I have already found friends for a lifetime and consider them as some of my best friends. Our relationship is built upon unforgettable memories like traveling together, having sleepovers, and fight for each other on and off the court. All this I can combine with studying what I’m interested in, and that is a unique chance. I would recommend college tennis for all the young players who want tennis to be a part of your daily life, improve their English skills and be part of a team.

UT Tyler Women's Tennis Team Picture

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