My Underdog Story

Liam Sunkel

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

I remember it like it was yesterday — the day I received the offer to join the SMU tennis team as a walk-on.

It was a dream come true, a moment that validated all the hard work and dedication I had put into the sport.

But this journey, this underdog story really, didn’t just happen overnight.

It was a culmination of years of determination, resilience, and unwavering self-belief.

Let me take you back to where it all began.

Getting into tennis wasn’t a deliberate choice for me.

It was more of a process of elimination. I dabbled in various sports as a child, but tennis was the one that captured my heart. I started playing at the age of five or six, and as I grew older, I realized that I wanted to compete and see how far I could push myself.

In high school, I played varsity tennis and traveled around Colorado for tournaments.

But deep down, I knew I had to do more if I wanted to reach my full potential.

Chris Evert Academy

In search of a greater challenge, I made the decision to transfer to the prestigious Chris Evert Tennis Academy as a full-time student-athlete.

Boarding there was a game-changer for me.

It was a huge change of pace, going from my cozy childhood home to a rigorous training environment filled with other passionate tennis players.

But I loved every minute of it.

I was playing tennis just as much as I was attending class.

It was a grind, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I was determined to improve and work my way to the top.

There is no doubt in my mind that my experience at the academy was an integral part of my tennis success.

If I could go back and do it again, I would tell myself to go my freshman year.

The experience was just so valuable.

It taught me discipline, focus, and the importance of teamwork.

I made lifelong friends there, and we still support each other on and off the court.

I remember it like it was yesterday — the day I received the offer to join the SMU tennis team as a walk-on. It was a dream come true, a moment that validated all the hard work and dedication I had put into the sport. But this journey, this underdog story really, didn't just happen overnight. It was a culmination of years of determination, resilience, and unwavering self-belief.

Joining the club team

When I first came to SMU, my goal was to join the club tennis team.

Little did I know that it would be the stepping stone to something even greater.

I threw myself into the club, practicing relentlessly and playing in tournaments.

It was during this time that I got exposed to the varsity team.

I spent a lot of time around the facility, soaking up the atmosphere and learning from the experienced players and coaches.

It was during my sophomore year when I felt comfortable enough with the coaches to ask them about the potential of walking onto the team.

They told me that if I continued to work hard and show my commitment, there was a chance it could happen. I trained even harder, both on and off the court, determined to prove myself.

I lifted weights, ran sprints, and studied the game, all while maintaining my good academic standing.

I knew that becoming a walk-on would require not only physical prowess but also mental toughness and academic discipline.

Earning the walk-on spot

After countless hours on the court showing my commitment and improving my skills, the moment finally arrived.

Coach Chen approached me and offered me a walk-on spot on the team.

I was overwhelmed.

It was validation of all the hard work and sacrifices I had made.

I couldn’t believe that I, the underdog who once wrote off the possibility of playing in college, had earned a place on the varsity team at this prestigious university.

Joining the SMU tennis team as a walk-on has been the highlight of my athletic career so far.

No doubt.

It’s a testament to what can be achieved with determination, resilience, and a never-quit attitude.

As I look to the future, I will continue to push myself to prove I belong.

I want to be a mentor to the new walk-ons, guiding them through their own journeys and showing that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

And when the time comes, I hope to find a career in tennis, using my passion and experience to make a difference in the lives of young athletes.

Whether it’s coaching, working with a sports organization, or something else entirely, I know that my determination and resilience will continue to guide me.

Until then, I’m very excited for the rest of my time here at SMU and on the tennis team.

I hope my underdog story inspires others to work hard and dream big.

Those dreams do come true.