Up and coming tennis star, Hayden Smith will leave for the United States on Saturday 18 August to take his place at the American college, Gonzaga University, located in Spokane, Washington.
Smith, who studied at the International Grammar School, Ultimo, found it difficult to concentrate on his tennis whilst completing his Higher School Certificate last year.
“I didn’t play any tournaments for six months, my main focus was to keep training as much as I could and it was hard when HSC trials came around”.
“It definitely impacts on your tennis” Smith said.
Smith had attended a U.S College Seminar at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre in November 2011 and was approached by Tennis NSW General Manager, Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre, Mark Wilton, to try out with the possibility of recruitment.
“I had heard from Mark (Wilton) that Peter MacDonald (Coach) was looking to see some local boys in action, while he was in Sydney.”
“The trial went well so my mum (Jacqueline Smith) and I flew over to America at the end of the year to check out a number of different options, but after building that relationship with Pete in Sydney I felt comfortable that Gonzaga was the right fit for me” explained Smith.
The American college pathway aims to provide students the balance between training and education, with flexible study options and world-class sporting facilities. Throughout four years at college, athletes receive the much needed developmental support to transition from college tennis to professional tennis.
Since Hayden signed onto Gonzaga University, Tennis NSW has been focusing on the pathway in partnership with the Asia-Pacific Tennis Institute and Aussie Athletes Agency. The Aussie Athletes Agency aims to bridge that gap in the market between the transition from junior athlete into the American college pathway. Finding the right information about the college pathway can be difficult in the Australian market.
“It’s pretty hard to find information, although I was lucky, I knew people who had taken that pathway.”
“Seems like a lot of players are interested in getting into college but they just don’t know how to get started” said Smith.
Former ATP tennis player and Aussies Athletes Agency Manager, Sandon Stolle, believes that the college pathway is becoming more attractive to Australian players.
“For him (Hayden) it’s a development as an individual as well as an athlete, he is going to stay in the sport for another four years and receive an internationally recognised education”.
“At the end of four years athletes like Hayden have the option to either pursue their chosen sport or go into the field that they have studied in.” Stolle explained.
Hayden has set a number of personal goals during his four years at Gonzaga University. At the top of the list is taking home one of the most prestigious titles within the college pathway, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Singles Champion. The NCAA championships have an extensive history, dating back to 1948.
Smith plans to focus on Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) tournaments during the summer break, which will provide him with the development and competition to transition after college to the ITF Challenger Circuit. Hayden will be looking to complete a business degree after his four years at Gonzaga University.
The Aussie Athletes Agency is a service that is provided by Tennis NSW, which aims to facilitate the process between the athlete and the American college. The agency runs information sessions at high schools, sporting institutions and conferences to educate parents and athletes about the college process. For more information about how recruitment works please head to the website www.aussieathletesagency.com