Inside Athletics

Kenny Zheng - Senior Reflection 2017

Kenny Zheng - Senior Reflection 2017

When I was deciding where to go to college, the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to continue playing tennis. Junior tennis is a very individual experience. There are no teams; the only travelling companion I had was my father. I often envied my friends who played soccer, basketball, or any other team sport where they were always surrounded by their teammates. I wanted to experience that team environment, and I knew that I could find it at the collegiate level.

One of the greatest things about being on an athletic team is having a support group as soon as you step on campus. I felt fortunate that I had older team members to ask about which dorm was the best to live in, what meal plan to get on, and which classes to take. Many of my friends who weren’t on athletic teams didn’t have that network and struggled more their freshman year. Another aspect of the team that I came to enjoy was its diversity. There were business majors, engineers, international students, shy kids, outgoing kids, you name it. Looking back, I don’t think that I would have become friends with many of them if it weren’t for tennis. Despite our differences, we all bonded after countless hours of practice, traveling, and competing. When I came in as a freshman, our class was a group of individuals. Now, four years later, they are my closest friends. The camaraderie and memories I’ve built with my teammates are what I cherish most from my time as a student-athlete.

On top of building strong friendships, being a part of the tennis team helped me develop as a leader. As a freshman, I was more preoccupied with my tennis game and didn’t think much about taking an active role as a leader on the team. At the end of my freshman year, the coaches nominated me to be a representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council. This was my first real leadership experience at CMU, and it certainly forced me outside of my comfort zone. I had always believed that the best leaders were the loudest people in the room, and being a quieter person myself I never believed that I could be an effective leader of a team. However, participating in leadership conferences, observing the upperclassmen on the team, and support from the coaches made me realize that leadership can come in many forms. I never imagined that I could become a captain of the team, but because of my development over four years it became a reality.

Without a doubt, playing on the men’s tennis team has shaped me into a better athlete, student, and individual. A college coach once told me in the recruiting process that when I graduated college, the only thing I would remember would be tennis - the parties, the studying, that would all fade but my teammates and the matches I played would stand out forever. As my college career comes to a close, that statement rings true. I know I’ll forget a lot of things from my time here at Carnegie Mellon, but I’ll never forget the long bus rides, the endless track workouts, all the big matches we played, and most importantly of all, my teammates.