By Shayne Newman, Former College Tennis Player
Tennis, the sport that stole my heart the second I stepped on the court for the first time. Little did I know this sport would bring me unforgettable memories, surreal opportunities and would teach me the lessons that would help aid me to become the person I am today.
It was summer of 2003 when I grabbed a tennis racquet for the first time. My father had previously played while growing up and thought it would be a great sport for me to try. At the time, I was actively playing softball and soccer, but would soon learn that tennis would completely overshadow the other two sports.
It took only one practice with my dad to realize that tennis is what I wanted to devote all my time to. I almost immediately dropped softball since I couldn’t see myself playing it in the future. I continued playing soccer along with tennis, but my heart was 100% devoted to tennis. At age ten, I started taking lessons at a local country club and when I was ready, I played in my first novice tennis tournament. From there, I would slowly watch my Southern California ranking rise and would continue to put in hours and hours of time and effort. After playing tennis for over a year, I made a decision to drop soccer and give all my time to tennis. This was very difficult for me. At the time, I was playing club soccer for SoCal United, a premiere soccer club in Southern California. I had been with this club for five years (since I was 7 years old) and they had become like family to me. As a twelve-year-old, my parents liked the idea of me playing an individual sport and a team sport. They did not want me to quit soccer, but in my heart, I knew if I wanted to reach my goals, I would have to focus entirely on one sport. They had me write a letter to them explaining why I thought this was the best plan for me. I think they just wanted me to put my thoughts down on paper and fully understand the decision I was making. It was that night after reading my letter, that my family and I realized that tennis was the one. It was the sport that was “hopefully” going to bring me joy and happiness. And that it did.
It got to the point where local clinics were not enough. I wanted to train more, on and off the court. Weil Tennis Academy, a well-respected academy based out of Ojai, California would give me the training and competition I felt I needed to grow. I brought the idea to my parents, but they originally said no. The academy was extremely expensive and I would either have to live on campus or revert to homeschooling and commute an hour each day. They told me that if my Southern California ranking reached top 20, I would be able to enroll. Within a couple of months, I did just that. I trained at Weil from age 12 up until I was 18 years old. Training included two to three-hour morning sessions following by lunch, and then another three to four-hour session on and off the court. This included private training, footwork, strength training, match play and mental conditioning. When I got home, I would complete my school work for the day, eat dinner and go to sleep. That was my life and I absolutely loved it. I never regretted missing middle and high school dances, because I knew what I was accomplishing was bigger.
When I was 14, I began traveling around the United States to compete in national tournaments. I wasn’t home very often, which is another reason I couldn’t attend public school. My national ranking began to rise, and I started gaining acceptance into the four main super national events – Clay Courts, Easter Bowl, Winter Nationals and Hard Court Nationals. I was 15 years old when I had my first top win at the Easter Bowl, against a girl ranked 7th in the nation. It was a moment I will never forget as it gave me the confidence to reach the highest ranking of my career. When I hit top twenty in the nation in my age group, my family and coaches decided to start entering me into international events (Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl and Prince Cup). I also started traveling outside of the United States and competing at a very high level against girls all around the world. During this time, I competed in several professional tournaments as well.
Once I hit my junior year in high school, I made the decision to take my tennis career to the collegiate level. I started looking at schools all over the country – Notre Dame, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State, Michigan, and Tennessee – to name a few. I ended up committing to the University of Arizona, and it was the best decision of my life. At Arizona, I would go on to meet some of my very best friends and my future husband. The competition in college was absolutely incredible and at times, was extremely tough, but I really enjoyed every minute of it. After competing all four years and making it to the NCAAs and two individuals NCAAs (doubles), I decided to retire from competing.
Tennis is an incredible life long sport that taught me self-discipline and provided me with memories that I will never forget. It brought amazing opportunities and experiences that I could have never imagined and I am so thankful.
This blog is part of our new series highlighting various tennis players throughout the United States. Each blog will feature stories, experiences, or techniques these players are willing to share with the GAMMA audience. If you’re interested in seeing more from Shayne Newman, click here to follow her on Instagram.