At Educated Coaches, we value providing meaningful learning opportunities. The learning opportunity this week is provided by professional tennis player Amanda Rodgers as she writes about her youth sports development pathway. The 2015 Syracuse University graduate was an All-ACC third team performer during her senior year and is currently on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and International Tennis Federation (ITF) Professional Circuit. The insight Amanda contributes will provide understanding as to how she was able to develop her skills to be successful at an elite college and professional level. Enjoy the read…
Becoming the tennis player that I am today was a result of passion for the game at an early age. Ever since I was a little kid, I would obsess over watching the pros play on TV and learning their strokes and different strategies. My parents couldn’t keep me off the court, and even when there was nobody to hit with, I would spend hours hitting on the ball machine or hitting serves. The backboard became my best friend. This all stemmed from the desire to become the best tennis player in the world one day.
At the age of thirteen I moved from my hometown of Middleburg, Virginia, to attend a tennis academy in Tampa, Florida called Saddlebrook. This was one of the best decisions I ever made as I spent the most crucial years of development at this tennis hotspot. I got recruited by Syracuse University, committed early, and was able to excel at a high level of Division I College Tennis for four years. Playing two years in the Big East Conference and two years in the Atlantic Coast Conference gave me so much experience competing against the best college tennis players in the country. I graduated from Syracuse University in May and have been playing professional tennis since then. I hope to continue to play professional for as long as I can.
The biggest piece of advice I have for young kids who aren’t sure what they should be doing or if their sport is right for them, is to just listen to your heart. If you truly love what you do, you will find a way to push yourself to the limit every day and get to where you want to go. Also, play different sports at an early age, as it will only increase your athleticism. Some of the best memories I have as a kid were from playing on a sports team. This created a positive sports environment for me to have fun and develop at the same time. I started playing tennis (if you would call it that) at the early age of 5 doing group clinics with my classmates. But I was also consumed by other sports such as soccer, riding, and lacrosse. I was a gifted athlete, so sports came easy to me. As I grew older, I realized there was something special about being on a tennis court. There was a level of comfort I had associated with being out there. As tennis quickly became my passion, I had to give up my other interests.
I was lucky to have extremely supportive parents who would drop everything on a dime for me to be not only successful, but also happy. There are no words to express the appreciation I have for them, as they are the biggest reason I have been successful in my career. Having parents who don’t live vicariously through me and only want me to be happy takes an enormous amount of stress off of myself. Athletes already put so much pressure on themselves. One of the biggest benefits of having parents who let me control my fate, is that it has forced me to take responsibility of my own dream. If I succeed it is because of me. If I fail it is because of me. Taking charge of my own dreams and goals gives me the added fuel to take my game to the next gear, especially in the toughest of competitions. My coaches taught me to enjoy the struggle, and if you aren’t struggling, then you aren’t doing it right. The self-inflicted obligation to succeed has fueled my motivation to keep pushing forward during challenging moments along the way. Looking back, I think this mindset is what would surge the next generation of athletes forward.
Every aspiring athlete’s path is unique and not one approach works for every player. As a competitor who has experienced every aspect of the game, and who has been coached by pretty much every coaching style out there, I can attest to this. I was fortunate enough throughout my development to have been able to train someplace where my sport was the sole focus of everyone around me. The process I took to become who I am today was a journey, and it is still a learning experience. Maybe if I had stayed in Virginia my path would have been the same, maybe not. But what I did worked for me. No matter what you aspire to be or what your level is, playing a sport is crucial as a kid. It has taught me valuable things such as discovering yourself, discipline and finding personal fulfillment that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
Amanda’s journey through youth and collegiate athletics is her personal story of working towards success. By reading her story, I hope she was able to provide you with purposeful information that will impact your journey towards athletic and lifetime success.
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