At the age of six, many children explore different sports and activities. For FSU freshman Katie Rybakova, this is when she began playing tennis. The 18-year-old is a member of the FSU Women's Tennis team and was influenced by her parents to pick up a racquet.
"Both my parents are tennis coaches, so it was hard not to get involved," Rybakova said. "They are very supportive of my tennis and are happy that I am at FSU."
Born in Moscow, Rybakova grew up in New York. During her junior and senior years of high school, she dedicated a great deal of time to playing tennis.
"I did home schooling to be able to travel for tennis tournaments the last two years of high school," Rybakova said.
The team practices everyday with the exception of Sundays for three hours. Matches during spring semester commence in January and end in June.
"I would say my favorite memory so far was the very first fall tournament that I went to with the FSU team. We had a tournament at Georgia Tech," Rybakova said. "I loved the atmosphere and competitive spirit that the team brings to the court and I'm glad that I'm a part of it."
Being a student-athlete can be tough.
"Managing time and efforts between tennis, school and my social life is the hardest thing to do," team member and FSU junior Michael O'Shea said.
Giving up everyday items, like soda, are changes that sometimes need to be made. Additionally, those on the team understand their need to work hard.
"The most difficult part about being on the FSU Tennis team would have to be the sacrifice and hard work you have to put in your everyday routine," team member and FSU freshman Clint Bowles said. "Whether it be not staying up those extra two hours or not drinking Coke during training. It's hard to stay focused with so many distractions, but it is our job so we have to take responsibility."
While being an athlete brings admiration, there are unfavorable elements to being on the team, as well as misconceptions.
"People think as student-athletes we have it handed to us and teachers make it easy for us," team member and FSU sophomore Jean-Yves Aubone said. "In reality it is much harder. We have a whole lot less time to study and sleep. During midterms or finals, we are usually studying on a plane or in a hotel room. I wish people could understand how difficult it actually is to play for your school and still be successful in the classroom at the same time."
Whether during practices, traveling or accomplishing victory, the team remain close-knit.
"I think being able to have a group of people to get to know as your teammate is a great benefit because coming to college is a big step away from home, friends and family," Rybakova said. "Having a 'family' here at FSU right away is a huge benefit and a thing that many athletes take for granted."
Ultimately, this sport has become more that an extra curricular activity to many.
"I just love tennis. It makes me feel happy and complete. I can't imagine my life without it," team member and FSU freshman Federica Suess said. "It became a part of me."
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