Saint Mary’s women’s tennis player Jade Frampton and former SMC cross country runner Jordan Lerma traveled the globe this summer, and their adventures led them to Wimbledon to take in one of the premier sporting events in the world.
Below is Frampton’s take on what they saw, told through the voice of a Saint Mary’s student athlete. All photos were taken by Lerma.
What’s A Tennis Player To Do? / Wimbledon Stole My Heart
I just finished up the tennis season as a junior this spring. My knees (and the rest of my body and soul) needed some time to recover after a grueling season of tennis and finals that I somehow managed to pass. I decided to travel a bit overseas, get away from the gym and textbooks. Even though I got to do some amazing things, including a climb up to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and a tour of the Coliseum in Rome, one of the most inspiring experiences I had this summer was going to watch Wimbledon in England.
It was a special Wimbledon for all of England because Andy Murray finally broke through and won the tournament for the British. The laughter and celebration continued all day and night. Every heart in England had been inspired that day, when Murray beat Novak Djokovic to become the first British man to win the title since 1936.
To add to that, this Wimbledon was special to me. First of all, it was my first time at a traditional tournament. Secondly, a few of the girls I knew and had played with when I was a junior were in the draw. Sloane Stephens, a girl that once trained with the same coach, and Monica Puig, a girl I had competed with in Central and South America, were playing against each other in the 4th round of Wimbledon! They were living the dream.
And there I was, watching it.
Sitting in the stands, watching girls my age play on the grass, made me think back to just before college. It was a delicate time because I had some big decisions to make. Ever since I was nine years old, I wanted to be a professional tennis player. The closer I came to getting my high school diploma, the sooner I needed to decide if I was really going to go through with professional tennisor start applying for schools and looking for a good scholarship.
I remember how much pressure that was on my 16 and 17-year-old shoulders. Every match that I didn’t do well in made me lean a little more towards college tennis. Every win I managed gave me, and not to mention my parents, hope for a career in the sport.
Things changed quickly. With the economy plummeting, my parents lost their business. With me and five other sisters to support, my parents simply couldn’t finance a professional tennis player, especially when there was no guarantee of success. The decision had been made.
Many people hear this story and think, “Well, you’re on a full scholarship and you’re on your way to fulfilling your dreams!” but everything isn’t as it appears. Tennis (with the exception of golf, perhaps) is completely different from most sports, especially in college.
Over the summer, I’ve kept in touch with the Gaels by following them on Twitter. I saw that Matthew Dellavedova, such a nice guy, was “prepping” for the NBA draft. And Ben Griset and Jordan Mills were signing with professional baseball teams.(Go Gaels!) Saint Mary’s has been spitting out young and talented athletes all year round, and it is so awesome to hear about these guys that I see in the training room icing their elbows and knees after long practices catching their dreams!
That just doesn’t happen in college tennis.
You’re not going to get drafted. There are no teams. You are on your own. Unless you’re one of the fortunate handfuls in a very large bucket, if you’re serious about tennis, you have to be able to pay your way. And this is what has been the wall that keeps stopping me whenever I get inspired to go out and play tournaments. I am going to be a senior this year, and soon I’ll have to decide if I want to keep playing tennis or find another career path. Saint Mary’s has given me both, a great athletics program as well as a challenging academic environment and I feel that at the end of my senior year, I will be sharp in both the mind and body. In the end, it will be up to me to decide what I want to do with my tennis or my degree.
I calculate it all the time in my head. Not only would I need to have enough money to get me to the tournaments I need to play, I would need money for hotel, food, and entry fees. Once that is taken care of, when I’m not on the road, I still would need to fund the training that goes on at home. That includes equipment too. Rackets, shoes, string, grips… the list goes on. And that list repeats itself; as a pair of shoes for a high-level tennis player only lasts a few weeks.
And, after I calculate how much it would really cost to actually see a pathway to the top, I realize two things: One, even if I find a way to afford it, there is no guarantee I’ll make it to the top. Two, thank God I’m getting a college education and have that to hold on to.
The money issue is overwhelming. My 20-year old self can’t handle such a number. There’s no chance. I tell myself that college tennis is where I’ll have to find my glory and feed my passion.
And then, I hear the roar of the crowd at Wimbledon. I can smell the grass in its earthy aroma as legends like the Bryan Brothers bump chests. I’m at Wimbledon, and I can’t help but get lost in the arena. Every time I hear the ball clip the net, I wince. Every time I hear tennis strings brush a tiny little felt ball at the perfect speed, my heart jumps. Every time I hear the crowd groan or cheer, I smile. It’s so homey out in the sun on a nice day sitting at the most beautiful grass courts in the world… This summer, Wimbledon stole my heart.
The statistics for a woman going pro after college and being successful are incredibly, disappointingly low, but I’m not looking at statistics. I’m looking at center court. That’s all I’m seeing.
What’s a girl to do?