Growing up, I was the typical kid who participated in as many different sports as possible. Gymnastics, swimming, basketball, soccer — you name it, and I at least tried it. I started playing tennis when I was 10. Both of my parents played throughout high school and college, and I decided in high school that tennis was the sport I wanted to focus on most throughout the next few years. Then came college.
I was torn between going to a big state university like many of my friends or continuing to play tennis. I knew I would have to attend a lower division school in order to pursue these athletic endeavors. That’s how I ended up at Harding. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.
I debated writing this column about my time at Harding and revealing all of the juicy stories of the Harding tennis team throughout the years. But I then stopped and thought about how I would much rather focus on these past few weeks and how much they have meant to me.
My senior quote from high school remains one of my favorite quotes today. Even though it is long, it captures what tennis has meant to me throughout the years and how the sport is applicable to many life lessons as well.
The quote is by Andre Agassi, a professional tennis player who helped in, a sense, revive tennis in America during the 1990s and early 2000s. He is considered by many to be one of the best players of all time. After losing his final tennis match at the U.S. Open, Agassi gave a farewell speech.
“The scoreboard said I lost today,” Agassi told the crowd. “But what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life.
I found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I’ve found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams I could never have reached without you. Over the last 21 years, I have found you, and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life.” (The New York Times)
I have heard it said that the last year of college, you learn more than the first three years combined. Whether that is true is hard to say, but I would say this past year has been one of the best years of my life, not just on the tennis court — because I have had trials there — but off it as well.
Even though I have only played tennis for 11 years and at the Division II level, I find so much truth in Agassi’s speech. At the end of the day, I will remember the people met, memories made and lessons learned throughout the years. I never could have imagined becoming so close to my teammates in my final year, but I will truly be sad to leave.
Every match this season has been a battle. We are going into conference this weekend as the fourth seed, but I could not be prouder of each woman and the individual lessons I have learned from all of them. I can call them not just my teammates, but some of my best friends.
I hope this column has been a space that has inspired or helped in some way. Even though not everyone plays a sport or knows athletics, we are similar in more ways than we might think.
Some relationships I have formed in classrooms have taught me more than the work I have done. My coworkers constantly inspire me to be the best version of myself and to selflessly serve others. My club has given me sisters that an only child could only dream of having.
As I say goodbye, I just want you to always remember: do not get so caught up in the game that you don’t stop and look around to learn and love the other players. Life is not always about the results, but rather the journey itself.