LifeTime Tennis veteran Danielle Morris returns from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee for the first time in nearly two years. Having her experience shaken up by Covid-19, Dani talks about her college experience thus far, the recruiting process and how the LifeTime Tennis Academy prepared her for college tennis.
- How have you found the college experience so far?
I’ve just come back after completing my first three years of college and have one more to go. All my years have been very different in their own right, particularly the past year with covid. Playing college tennis is a once in a lifetime experience you can’t get anywhere else. There is so much money invested in sport in the US, so the level of competition everywhere is high. I love being able to compete against such a large variety of people. I have never played the same person twice outside of the conference tournaments in my three years. I also have really enjoyed the opportunity to grow and mature into my own person since moving out of home and being forced to become a lot more independent has been a challenging but fun experience.
- How has Covid impacted your college experience?
Covid completely changed the experience for me. When it first started it just didn’t seem like a big deal and I guess no one expected it to affect them. I literally went to Florida for spring break where the first ‘big’ outbreak in the US was and it was only like 200 cases at the time. On our drive back from Florida we got an email saying the school was cancelled for another week while we went remote because we just got our first cases in Tennessee, and everyone was starting to freak out. We were all gutted because we knew we had a good chance to win our conference championship that year. The place went on full lockdown for the next 1.5 months pretty much, so I didn’t get to play any tennis or really leave my room except to eat. Pretty much everyone went home except me and my one of my American roommates. I had some pretty hard classes, so I did not want to take time to pack and hop on a plane for 24hrs during school. Some of my chemistry professors are not the most lenient people. However, as the semester was ending, I realised I was not going to be able to return home for the summer break. I was disappointed by did not mind because I set up a pharmacy internship at the local hospital and thought I would be able to come home for Christmas. Unfortunately, Covid got much worse so the internship was cancelled and I missed out on going home for the Christmas break too. One thing you’ll learn quick is you cannot tell an American what to do without them feeling like your infringing on their rights. The mandates did nothing so we had none enforced after the first lockdown in our state. This caused Tennessee to have the most cases of covid in the world over the Christmas break – I think we had over a million cases, so I was pretty much locked in the house for the break. This past school year was pretty covid strict, which I am very thankful for as it allowed us to finally compete again in our championship. We had to wear masks literally everywhere – even for weights and conditioning. In the Fall semester we were only allowed to practice and had to get covid tested biweekly. In spring when we were finally able to compete, we had to get tested weekly, sometimes twice a week. That’s a lot of sticks up the nose! We also had pods and they strongly encouraged us to stay within at team events. The fall semester was cancelled for everyone except football at our school, so in spring all 16 of our sports were competing. Every one of our teams except our tennis team had an outbreak and had to suspend games. It cost a couple teams their season because not only was the positive person in quarantine, but the people contract traced were in quarantine even longer than the positive cases. And then those that were in contact with the people were contract traced were also athletically suspended at my school and it was a gruelling process. In season to avoid being contract traced when my roommate was exposed, I had to move out of my apartment and be put in a hotel just so I could play my match the next day. My schooling wasn’t effected too much as a chemistry major because I needed to be in class for labs, so only some lectures were remote on Zoom. However, all my other teammates in business and health sciences were completely remote the whole school year. After 1.5 years being away from home, I am so relieved to come back to Brisbane and live in some normalcy. Although not being able to travel sucks, Australia has done an amazing job controlling the situation. I’m so thankful to be able to go about my own business here without worrying about breathing the same air as some stranger and getting sick! Most people will be vaccinated by the time I get back so I’m hoping things will go a little more back to old ways, but I don’t think it will ever be the same.
- As an Australian recruit, what was your recruiting experience like?
My recruiting experience was a little different. I was on the back fence on whether I wanted to go to college, and so I didn’t want my parents to fork out the money for an agent if I wasn’t going to go as I knew it would be financially difficult for them. I used a website called NCSA and you essentially do most of the process yourself and make a profile on their website. They have workers that will help you with questions kind of like an agent, but the recruiting center is in America, and you only get a couple calls with them. I probably should have been doing homework, but instead I would spend hours each night looking at schools I wanted to apply to and learning everything I could about the process. It was only in year 12 that I decided I for sure wanted to go to college. Doing it more individually made it a much more intensive process. Agents do a lot of the heavy work for you and make sure you’re not missing any important paperwork. It’s been 4 years since I had to worry about recruiting but I remember filling out a lot of forms and paying a lot of fees to be eligible and get my visa. The good thing is once you’re in you don’t have to worry about that process ever again. After graduating I went on some official visits in the US to see some of the schools I was talking too. If that’s a possible option for you I highly recommend it. The schools are more willing to offer you visits if you are already in the US as domestic flights are much cheaper than international. That was a crucial part of my recruiting process. If I based my decision on paper, I would not have chosen the school I went to. Austin Peay was one of the smaller D1 schools I was talking to at the time. However, my perspective changed completely after visiting. You’ll find a lot of the coaches are doing everything they can to sell their program to you so they are often exaggerating or the vibe is maybe not what you expect. For me personally, I realised I did not want to go to a big school, it just wasn’t for me. I liked the atmosphere of the medium sized school and I like that I know a lot of the athletes and people in my classes. I’m also able to build close relationships with my professors, which will help in future.
- Why did you choose to go to college?
Like I said college is a once in a lifetime experience. If you have the skills to go, I highly recommend it. In my high school stage of life, I realised I wasn’t ready to let all that training and hard work I put in over the years go to waste. It’s so hard to do anything with your tennis while balancing full time university in Australia because the system isn’t set up the same. Especially for girls where there is an abundance of full scholarships available, why wouldn’t you use your skills to get free training, competition, and education? It ended up being a no brainer for me and I have no regrets choosing to go to the US instead of staying in Australia to pursue my undergraduate degree.
- How did training at LifeTime prepare you for college?
LifeTime was essential in preparing me for college. I started coming to LifeTime when I was about 9 years old. LifeTime has really structured training programs that no other club I’ve been to has to offer. The training sessions always had a clear focus and a variety of drills to go with the focus. This has helped me in my college practices to focus on a particular area of my game in college practices when we are playing practice points or doing drills. The years of training at LifeTime has also helped me learn truly what work ethic and resilience is about. I had no concept of what that really was when I first started. There were days where I would turn up to train feeling like an absolute train wreck, but I learned once you step out on the court you have to put that all aside and focus just on the present. I learned many other lessons from my training at LifeTime. The lessons the coaches taught me on the practice court are beneficial for all areas of college and life, not just tennis. 6. What are your plans for the next couple of years? I will be graduating next May with a Bachelor of Chemistry and hoping to pursue graduate school after. I’m undecided whether I want to be either a clinical pharmacologist or a registered dietitian so either of those is what I plan to study after.
Stay tuned for more updates for more updates on our returned college players!
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