Alumni Updates: Abigail Chiu Checks in From Dartmouth College
Hi Coach Newman and the ATA community!
I just ended my first quarter at Dartmouth College which was filled with many ups and downs, but overall, a very successful first term. Going to college, I had to settle into many new changes that I faced when I first stepped foot on the Dartmouth campus. These changes consisted of constantly meeting new people, adjusting to a newly decorated dorm room, becoming comfortable with my team and coaches, and learning to live on my own for the first time. It was definitely a culture shock and at times extremely hard for me to adjust to. Being so far from my friends and family is hard, but I am glad to say that I am now really happy and enjoying every moment here. While there are similarities with ATA, there are definitely major differences that have surprised me in both good and bad ways. The first thing I will tell you about college tennis is that once you join the team, you are not so special anymore. The special attention that is given to you at ATA no longer exists. You are now part of a group and everything is divided among a dozen other people so with that being said, be a team player.
The first day of practice I learned the hard way. I was playing a point against a senior, missed a shot and told myself not to miss it again. Later that practice, my coach came up to me and told me that next time, I must tell my teammate that she hit a good shot, and I can honestly tell you that it was an extremely embarrassing, and humiliating feeling. After that practice, I cried walking home because I missed my coaches, my friends, and my family. I did not adjust to this new coaching as well as I had hoped, and I had a hard time balancing my success with my team’s success. But at the same moment, I realized that regardless of whether or not I think I am better than the person across the net, I am going to have to put my head down and work to earn my position on the team. The coaches at your college are not going to care if you’re winning every practice match; they care about you being open-minded to their coaching and most importantly, that you’re supporting each and every teammate including the one you’re competing against.
My advice to you is to start now, and every day leading up to your first college practice. This means constantly cheering on your teammates, high fiving them when they do something good, or pumping them up when they need the encouragement. It doesn’t matter if you had a bad day at school, or there’s something on your mind; your coaches and your teammates chose you to be on that team, so you better be the best teammate you can be. College tennis is a whole new sport because now you’re playing for more than just yourself. You are now playing for an entire team, for the pride of your school, and for the many college tennis teams that came before you. Luckily, I learned quickly the importance of team and was able to apply that to my tennis.
Overall, I had a pretty successful first term, winning my region in doubles and being able to compete at nationals in California. It was a big honor for me to represent Dartmouth at the national level, and a feeling I will never forget. College tennis is something amazing but it’s just one component of your college experience. As far as school is concerned, I would advise you to take classes that you’re interested in because when you’re passionate about the class, school is so enjoyable.
Something that really shocked me about school is that doing homework is one of my favorite things. That sounds extremely nerdy but I promise that if you choose classes that really interest you, those late nights in the library are so fun and worth it. In terms of school work, I also suggest you completing your assignments the day they’re assigned because being a student-athlete, sleep is extremely important. It is also a huge relief to know you’re ahead in school when you have upcoming tournaments or dual matches.
My piece of advice when it comes to the social aspect of college is to be willing to meet all types of people, especially outside of the tennis team. When you go to school, you are surrounded by people with all different types of ethnicities, beliefs, experiences etc. I have only been to college for ten weeks but have already met some of the most interesting people who I know will add great value to my life.
The last thing I can tell you is to really appreciate the relationships you have at home and at ATA. With that being said, try your hardest to strengthen those as best you can before you leave. I went through some terrible days extremely homesick and I promise there’s nothing more you want than to be able to call your friends, coaches, and family. I was struggling on the tennis court because I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to be playing, but luckily Coach Doug and Coach Dio were two people who really helped me get back to where I needed to be. Another thing that may be helpful is to ask your private coach at ATA to develop a good relationship with your future college coach. Your ATA coach knows your tennis game, and you as a person better than your college coach so with that help, you will really benefit yourself well when you’re struggling. That very thing is what makes the Austin Tennis Academy special and if you take advantage of the special people around you, you will always have them when you need them the most.
Good luck to everyone in the upcoming tournaments and in the college search!