By nature, tennis is an individual sport.
Sure, you got doubles, and college tennis has a massive team component, but for the most part, you are out there on your own.
The success — and failure — on the court is mostly your doing.
And that can put an extraordinary amount of pressure on your mental health.
For this reason, I’m beyond grateful to have played for a school that genuinely values and cares for the well-being of its athletes.
At Oklahoma, mental health is at the forefront for student-athletes through numerous facilities and resources, including PROS. (Psychological Resources for OU Student-Athletes)
I didn’t start my tennis career at OU, but it didn’t take me long to discover that Norman is where I was meant to be.
Since the day I arrived on campus for the first time to my last match at the 2023 NCAA Championship Final, I’ve always felt the love of this university.
OU became the central piece I was missing to become the best version of myself, both on and off the court.
Truth be told, my tennis career and the person I’ve become will always be synonymous with OU, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Seeking a new start
I’m originally from Canada, but I started training in Tampa when I was 13. As I became accustomed to the Florida area, I knew that’s where I wanted to live long-term.
When I signed with the University of Florida to continue my tennis career, the proximity to Tampa played a major role in my decision.
But ultimately, after my sophomore season, I needed a new start.
As terrifying as it was to enter my name into the transfer portal, there was this untapped potential inside of me that needed to be let out.
And I was looking for the perfect school to help me to do just that.
I knew a little about OU and its tennis program through Kianah Motosono, a former player when we used to train together in Florida. Kianah had a fantastic career at OU and loved every second of being a Sooner, so I figured that was reason enough to take a visit.
Once I stepped foot on campus, it’s difficult to put into words, but it just felt right. I loved everything about the people, campus, coaches, and program.
This is where I belonged.
I was tentative about entering the portal because I had a great career at UF, but knowing what I know now, transferring to OU was one of the best decisions I ever made.
PROS at OU
In addition to the bond and love I shared with my teammates and coaches, another reason OU has such a special place in my heart is because of how they take care of their student-athletes.
Not only do we have access to some of the best facilities in the country, but they go the extra mile in providing the resources for student-athletes to succeed on and off the court.
As I mentioned before, one of those resources OU offers is PROS, which essentially provides mental health services to student-athletes to help achieve academic, athletic, and personal success.
As student-athletes, in addition to balancing school, we’re tasked with a rigorous practice and training schedule to compete at the highest level against some of the best players and teams in the country.
It can be overwhelming sometimes.
Through PROS, having trained and licensed psychologists to talk to on a regular basis has helped me play as freely as possible with a clear mind and a determined focus.
I’m confident it’s made me a better player, and I have an endless amount of gratitude to OU for providing beneficial opportunities like this to their student-athletes.
A winning mentality
I’ve always been fairly calm on the court, but there were a variety of different ways that PROS assisted in changing my mentality for the better.
We worked on routines I could do between points and several breathing exercises to ensure I stayed in the moment on the court.
Truthfully, these practices were so ingrained in me that I didn’t even really think about them during competition. I spent as little time thinking as possible on the court, which I believed was instrumental to my success, especially in my final season this past spring.
When I kicked off the NCAAs, I kept this same mentality.
At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would be coming back for my fifth year or not, so I just went out there and competed to the best of my ability.
As I kept advancing and went on a five-match win streak, I was oblivious to the fact that I was the first Sooner to ever reach the quarterfinals, semifinals, and title match. It wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind because I was just focusing on the task at hand.
While I wasn’t quite able to win a national title, I remained upbeat and couldn’t have had more gratitude for easily the most surreal experience of my life.
Without OU and the resources and opportunities they provide to their student-athletes, I’m pretty positive I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this.
After the NCAAs, I had an extremely difficult decision to make in regard to coming back for a fifth season or turning pro.
As much as I was tempted to come back one more year and try to win a national championship, I ultimately decided that finishing as the runner-up in my last college match wasn’t a bad way to go out.
Thanks to OU, I accomplished almost everything I ever dreamed about at the college level, and I wanted to shift my focus to the professional tour.
We have the best fans in the country in Sooner Nation, and their support has meant everything to me these last two years as they treated a girl from Ontario like one of their own.
While I was only at OU for two years, they helped shape me into the player and person I am today.
Not only am I a more focused and complete player, but I’m a better person for having stepped foot in Norman and forged lifelong relationships and friendships.
Simply put, OU brought out the best in me, and this university will always be a part of me for as long as I live.