Ever since stepping foot on SMU’s campus, Coach Chen has been pretty clear about what he wants to accomplish with the program.
In fact, his vision was one of the main reasons I committed to SMU in the first place. His drive for this program is unmatched.
It’s something that I instantly resonated with before ever hitting a ball here.
One of his main goals has always been to win the AAC conference tournament.
So far, it hasn’t happened.
But every year, we get closer and closer. And this year, we feel like we could finally make it happen.
Never have we been in a better position to make this dream a reality.
With our regular season having come to a close on Monday, all of our focus is on the conference tournament this weekend.
And it’s been a bittersweet week already.
Last Saturday, unless I decide to take my COVID year, I played my last home match for SMU. Having my parents there meant the world to me. After all, they are the reason I’m even doing this. It was a very special moment and I’ll be forever grateful that I got to share it with them.
Ending my ‘home court’ college career with both a singles and a doubles win was exciting, too, but in a moment like this, it’s hard not to reflect on your journey and reminisce about everything that has led to this point.
I can’t help but remember clinching a doubles point against the Longhorns in front of 850 people while my partner was dealing with a wrist injury in one of our first matches of the 2020 season. That atmosphere was electric — still one of my favorite moments at SMU, no doubt.
Or how our team continued to bond amidst a global pandemic.
Or even my first couple of days here in Dallas.
Man, time flies, you know?
It also made me think of my teenage years and how I even ended up here at SMU.
Growing up, I was fortunate that my stepdad ran a successful academy for almost 30 years. So, whenever I wanted to go hit, well, I could just go there. Access to courts or partners was never an issue.
Every day, I looked forward to my time on the court as I felt like you learn something every time you hit a ball. Like, it’s one of my favorite things about tennis, you know?
You literally get out what you put in. It rewards your effort.
On top of that, I fell in love with the mental aspect of the game.
Sure, we all know tennis is a physical sport. But mentally, man, tennis will challenge you in so many different and unique ways — it almost forces you to learn quickly, or you won’t see any success.
Overall, there were just a lot of things about the sport that drew me in.
And today, as I’m getting ready to possibly play my final matches for SMU, I’m glad I stuck with the sport through thick and thin.
My decision to join SMU wasn’t really a difficult one.
After having a huge win at Kalamazoo in 2018, I started drawing the attention of a lot of college coaches. It was a win that put me on the radar of a lot of programs, you know?
And they all had something very special to offer.
SMU and Coach Chen offered a vision.
You see, Coach Chen had just joined the program and was brought on to turn SMU tennis into a powerhouse. And I loved that. It really resonated with me to become one of the first ‘blocks’ to build this thing, and Coach Chen’s record obviously spoke for himself.
Was there a moment when I was a bit anxious about it? Sure, I took obviously a bit of a risk, too, as the program was essentially doing a 180, but excitement and pride definitely overshadowed, no doubt.
And the moment I met my teammates and began to work, it just all fell into place for me.
As we get ready to head to Tulsa for the AAC tournament, I’ll do whatever I can to help our team succeed.
Over the years, it wasn’t always easy to find my exact role on the team. I saw a lot of success in doubles and know I earned my spot there.
But just because I have a great record in doubles or am an upperclassman, for example, doesn’t guarantee a spot in the singles lineup.
When you have ambitions and dreams of turning pro one day, well, that wasn’t always easy to swallow. Obviously, you want to play singles, too, right? And I don’t think that’s a secret.
But as I got older, I learned to understand my role on the team more. Not just on the court, but off the court as well.
I saw the impact I can have without being in the singles lineup, or doubles lineup even for that matter. Whether it’s guiding freshmen or supporting my teammates from the stands — understanding my impact was critical.
And I think that’s one of the reasons why things are clicking so well for us this year. We’re all fully embracing and recognizing our role on the team. And that makes a huge difference on the court, too.
The success is starting to show and now, we’ll do whatever it takes to prove it at the conference tournament as well.
Here we go!