The summer holidays have started and that means that our student-athletes also 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 second ‘College Talk with Laura’, part of a new series of articles on our news page, appears today!
The previous article was about clinch matches, today everything around the ‘razorbacks’ is central. That’s what the group of student-athletes at the University of Arkansas is called. Read more about it below!
What it means to be a Razorback
Since January 2019, I’ve played tennis for the University of Arkansas, also called “The Razorbacks”. The University of Arkansas is a very prestigious school when it comes to sports: our baseball team is the #1 in the country, as is our cross country team. On top of that, we have a lot of teams in the top 15 of the United States: track & field (both men and women), softball, basketball (both men and women), golf (both men and women), gymnastics and soccer. Out of the 17 Razorback teams, there are 12 teams in the top 15 of the United States. Not bad, huh?
So basically there is lots of talent walking around at the University of Arkansas and many Razorback athletes turn pro after their college career. I can proudly say that I have friends playing basketball in the NBA or playing baseball in the MLB (look up Isaiah Joe and Heston Kjerstad if you like). As you can imagine, being a Razorback athlete in a country such as the United States, definitely comes with respect from other people and a little bit of status. On top of that, the state of Arkansas does not have any professional sports clubs, only universities: because of this everyone in Arkansas is a diehard Razorback fan, since we are the highest ranked university within the state
As an athlete, you definitely notice this due to the attention you get on a daily basis. When I’m walking around at an airport (doesn’t matter where I am in the United States), people often approach me and ask questions purely because of my Razorback gear (so my clothes and backpack). Everyone is immensely interested in you and it is super easy to make friends because lots of people come up to talk to you. This always makes me so proud to be a Razorback and to represent the University of Arkansas by playing my sport.
“When I’m walking around at an airport (doesn’t matter where I am in the United States), people often approach me and ask questions purely because of my Razorback gear (so my clothes and backpack). Everyone is immensely interested in you and it is super easy to make friends because lots of people come up to talk to you. This always makes me so proud to be a Razorback”Laura Rijkers – student-athlete University of Arkansas
The recognition you get as a Razorback is great, but all the other stuff that comes with it is just as great: the Nike clothes/shoes/backpacks/caps you get, the material (in my case rackets/grips/strings), the facilities and the services that are there for you to use. Here you can see an Instagram post by @razorbackWten with a picture from some gear we got in August 2019 (every year we get a bunch of new Nike stuff. I don’t know about you, but new Nike gear = happy Laura).
Next up: our facilities. The University of Arkansas has an American Football stadium that fits 76,000 fans (20,000 more than in the Amsterdam Arena!!!). Before every game starts, planes fly over the stadium releasing red and white smoke (the Razorback colors). There is also a band, dancers, cheerleaders and more to perform and entertain the fans before the game begins. It is sooooo cool to attend one of these games!
Also our basketball arena and baseball stadium are very impressive:
Another great thing about being a Razorback is that you get treated as a professional athlete. There are one or more athletic trainers (a.k.a physiotherapists) available for every sports team. These athletic trainers travel with your team and are present at all your practices. You can also use the “training rooms” that are available, where they have all the materials you need in order for you to recover properly from your injuries. See below for a training room with treatment tables, ice baths and hot tubs (every sport has their own training room).
On top of the athletic trainers, there are also dieticians and sport psychologists available if you feel like you need it. I personally love to meet with my sports psych once every two weeks to talk about my tennis.
I personally believe that the athlete center is the BEST THING about my university. This athlete center is called The Jones and only athletes can enter this building. It consists of a cafeteria and a study area. The cafeteria is especially designed for the athletes, so it is healthy food. You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Breakfast and lunch is free for every athlete and dinner is either part of your scholarship or it isn’t. Luckily for me, it is part of my scholarship so… I never have to cook EVER! (That’s a good thing because I’m a terrible cook). Like I said, there is also a study area in the Jones, where you can book rooms to study in between your practices or before you’re going to class. There is a computer available in every room. There are also two big computer rooms and they contain about 60 computers each (including MacBooks if you prefer those!). The study area is also used for tutoring: so if you struggle with a certain class, the only thing you have to do is ask for a tutor and they schedule a session for you every week with someone who has knowledge about the subject.
In conclusion: I am so proud to be a Razorback and to represent the state of Arkansas. There is this Dutch saying: “just act normal, that already makes you crazy enough” and as a Dutch tennis player I have often experienced that here in the Netherlands. Classmates in high school who thought I was boring because I skipped yet another party for tennis. That is why I think it is so incredibly fun to be appreciated for what I’m good at in the United States. I’m getting the feeling that everything I had to give up for tennis, is finally paying off.
Impressed by Laura’s story? We get that. The facilities at American universities are special and are dedicated to student-athletes. Want to read more about Laura’s college time so far? Then keep a close eye on our news page and social media channels in the coming weeks!
Do start thinking: “What Laura does, I want that too!”? Reach out to us quickly or click on the button below, and we will discuss your options together.