The summer holidays started which means that our student-athletes have time for more than just study and sports. That’s why Slamstox tennis player Laura Rijkers started her summer internship at Slamstox where she helps future college tennis players with their process. Laura is part of the University of Arkansas and plays Division I tennis.
After the summer holidays she returns to America and starts the second semester of her junior year. This means that she has already gained a lot of experience that she would like to tell us more about. That’s why the third ‘College Talk with Laura’, part of a new series of articles, appears today on our news page!
Previous articles have been about clinch matches and what it means to be a Razorback, today she talks about her favorite trips across America. Besides the busy life of a student-athlete, there is also time and space to make trips through America. Read Laura’s story below!
Coolest trips I’ve made for college tennis
As a college tennis player in The States you have to travel a lot in the spring season for all the matches you have to play against different universities. Sometimes, these universities are against schools that are “close” to yours (Americans do have a completely different understanding of the word “close” than we do, a 2 hour drive is nothing for them), but sometimes you actually have to fly to these other universities because they are that far away. I got to go on a few awesome trips with my team and it is my pleasure to tell you more about them.
1. Las Vegas
In February of 2020, I traveled to Las Vegas with my team to compete against UNLV (University of Las Vegas). Thankfully we were able to take this trip before Covid-19 hit us, because this was one of the coolest trips I have made in The States.
Of course it was more of a business trip than anything else, because we came there to play tennis and beat UNLV. The Razorbacks managed to win the match with a 5-2 score, which I think put our coaches in a good mood (if you read on, you’ll understand why I’m saying this). We played this match on Saturday morning and we wouldn’t return back home to Fayetteville until Sunday afternoon. The remainder of Saturday was ours and we decided to walk around in Vegas with the group to just see what all the fuss is about. And believe me, the fuss is very much justified when you walk around Vegas yourself. Is it just as crazy as in movies and TV shows? The answer is yes, maybe even crazier. Here you can see some pictures of downtown Las Vegas:
Believe it or not, but crazy enough one of my favorite artists was supposed to perform that Saturday night, Dermot Kennedy. My teammates are also big fans of his and so was our coach. Our coach bought tickets for his concert for us as a surprise and with a wink she told us “this is for team building” (this is what I meant with the coaches being in a good mood). To attend a concert of one of your favorite artists in Vegas with the budget of your university is obviously FANTASTIC.
The month before we went to Vegas, we also got to make a trip to Malibu. There we had to play against the University of Pepperdine, where my good friend Daniel de Jonge plays in the men’s tennis team. This is probably the most beautiful university I ever got to play a match at. The University of Pepperdine is right next to the ocean, the courts are bright blue and surrounded by palm trees and the campus lies on a little hill behind the tennis courts.
Unfortunately, we also experienced something very heartbreaking on this trip. As you might know, Kobe Bryant and his daughter died on the 26th of January 2020 due to a helicopter crash. This helicopter crash took place in Malibu and we drove past this crash when it happened, right after we finished our practice. We saw smoke coming out of the valley and there were cops everywhere blocking the roads. We later found out that this was the helicopter crash in which Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant passed away.
Nashville is the city where the University of Vanderbilt is located, a school we have to play against every year because they are in our conference. Nashville really is one of my favorite cities in The States because of its lively atmosphere all around the city. Walking around in downtown Nashville is a whole experience by itself: in almost every bar or café they have, there is a live band performing. Often those bands perform country songs or rock songs, which is right up my alley since both of my parents used to be bass guitarists in a rock band when they were younger. On top of all the music and bars, there are also many restaurants with extremely good food. For a real “Bourgondier” like me (a Dutch term for someone who basically loves to eat lots of good food and have a good time), Nashville is the place to be.
4. Private jet trip
After every spring season, there is a final tournament of our conference (The South Eastern Conference). The teams who compete in this conference are put in a draw and at the end of the week there is a winner. Normally, we fly to almost all of our matches, except when we play against universities that are less than a 5 hour drive away (which doesn’t occur a whole lot). We usually fly commercial, so through a normal airport as one would expect. This tournament however, was different: we flew there with two private jets (6 people per jet). At first, I was super nervous to fly in a small plane like that, but once we were in the air, the nerves disappeared and I could only think to myself: “wow, I can say that I flew in a private to compete in tennis matches, there aren’t a lot of people who can say that”. It is safe to say that I got to experience a ton of cool stuff just because I play college tennis.
Did you get excited by Laura’s story and do you want to become a student-athlete as well? Or would you like more information? Reach out and we will help you!