This weekend, from February 14 to 17, the best male college players in the country will compete in the annual ITA Division I National Men’s Indoor Championships (ITA) in Houston. As a Texas based company, MyTennisLessons is excited about the prospect of the best collegiate players convening in Houston to showcase their skills. There are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on, specifically whether the Virginia Cavaliers, who have won this tournament 5 of the last 6 years, can defend their title. Obviously that won’t be an easy task considering the staunch competition that will be present. Besides Virginia, last years runner up USC will be competing alongside other powerhouses such as Georgia, UCLA, and Texas A&M.
It took a lot of time, effort and dedication for these players to get to this point in their careers where they will be competing at the highest collegiate level. You may be asking yourself, what does it actually take to make it as a DI college tennis player? When it comes time to graduate from high school there are some big decisions these players have to ask themselves. Am I ready for the commitment needed to play at a top DI school? What school will best suit me and my developing tennis game? Or very simply put, am I good enough to play at that highest collegiate level?
Naturally, we wanted some answers. We had the opportunity to talk with Lars Behlen who is former player for the No. 6 ranked Baylor Bears who will be competing at the ITA Div. I National Indoor Championships later this week. It’s their 11th time partaking in this event, winning it for the first and only time in 2005. Lars would be an integral junior leader on the team right now if not for an injury that cut short his college career. Either way, Lars was able to give us some valuable insight into what it actually takes to make the leap from high school to college and what factors came into play upon committing to Baylor in this months player profile.
1. What was your tennis background prior to joining the Baylor tennis team?
Before I came to Baylor in 2011, I played tennis for about 15 years. The last few years before I came to college I played very intensively. I lived very close to the court and practiced 5-6 times a week, depending on my tournament schedule. I played club matches in the 2nd and 3rd German division and was ranked in the top 100 in the german men’s ranking right before I joined the Baylor tennis team.
2. Did you take tennis lessons growing up, and if so, what was the single best piece of advice you received?
I’ve been taking tennis lessons since I was 4 years old. It is really hard to point out a single piece of advice because I received so much and tennis is such a complex sport. My coaches however, always made clear that you have to work hard if you want to achieve something. I think that helped me a lot to develop a certain work ethic.
3. Was there a defining moment in your playing career when you realized that you were good enough to play Division I tennis?
I hadn’t really thought about going to college until I was 16 or 17 years old when the first coaches contacted me. Once that happened I realized what a great opportunity that could be and decided pretty soon that I wanted to go to college.
4. What were your main reservations when deciding whether or not to try out for the tennis team?
I never tried out for the tennis team. Coach Knoll contacted me and visited me in Germany and explained what it would be like to play tennis for Baylor. I had a lot of respect to make the final decision since it was a big step. I had some respect to be that far away from home in a different country with a different language, but at the same time I was super excited.
5. In 2011, you joined the Baylor Tennis Team. Why did you choose Baylor?
I was looking for a college that has a good tennis program and also a certain academic level. I met the coach when he was in Germany in the summer and had the feeling that I would fit into the program. After I visited Baylor’s campus and the facilities I was convinced that it was the school I wanted to play for.
6. What is a typical day like for a college tennis player? Did you find any aspect of your experience difficult to get used to?
A typical day is very busy. You go to class in the morning, after a quick lunch you practice in the afternoon and when you’re done you have to study or do homework in the evening. Depending on the time of the year morning workouts before class are part of the schedule. It wasn’t that difficult to get used to it. It was definitely tough and it was challenging to organize yourself but I got used to the daily schedule pretty soon.
7. We understand that your college tennis career was cut short due injury. Is there any advice that would give developing tennis players attempting to overcome injury?
Injuries are never fun and it is very hard to just do rehab and not be able to play on the court, but you have to patient and be professional. Make the best out of it and work on things your injury allows you to work on.