Growing Pains

April 17, 2007

For any freshman athlete, the adjustment to college in most cases is a difficult one. Their skills have taken them to a point where competing is more like a job. On top of that, they’re taking more strenuous classes and trying to adjust to life away from home. A season of ups and downs is normally expected and Iowa women’s tennis athlete Kelcie Klockenga’s first year as a Hawkeye has been no different.

Prior to stepping on the Iowa campus, Klockenga was enjoying a very successful tennis career. Her Blue Valley North High School team in Overland Park, Kan. won three state titles during her four years. She held the school record for highest winning percentage and most wins in a season. On the national stage she was ranked in the Top 100 of the USTA rankings. Her best finishes in juniors included first in doubles at the 2005 National Open, and first in doubles and second in singles at the 2006 Texas Open.

Prior to the 2006 Texas Open, Hawkeye Head Coach Daryl Greenan had already received a commitment from Klockenga. On the court, he had seen her in a few national tournaments and saw she was a smart player who uses her skills well. He still believed, though, there was still a lot of untapped potential.

After getting results from the Texas Open last summer, Greenan was quite pleased. The tournament allowed him to see how committed she was.

“While some players drop off after committing, Kelcie didn’t,” said Greenan of her junior tournaments. “Kelcie worked hard physically, and got good, solid results after she committed to Iowa. That told me we’ve got someone here who will be excited to play college tennis.”

Aside from tennis, Greenan wanted her at Iowa because she was a well balanced student-athlete. He had heard a lot of good things about her character and personality during the recruiting process and eventually had the chance to see those qualities for himself. He felt she would fit in quite well with the rest of the team.

“Tennis is such an individual sport in the juniors. It’s now a lot of fun to be a part of a team,” said Klockenga. “At first it was a little hard to adjust to the team concept since I wasn’t playing just for myself anymore. Everyone is very supportive of each other and that really helped me to adjust.”

Although she was performing well on the court and gaining confidence in her game during the fall season, the adjustment to college was not an easy one. At first she admits she was pretty quiet. She didn’t know what to expect.

Even with the support of her teammates, Klockenga had help from her Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sisters. Although it’s not common for student-athletes to get involved in the Greek system at Iowa, going to a school where she didn’t know anyone, she thought it would be a fun experience and a great way to meet people.

“They are very understanding of the fact that I can’t participate in a lot of the sorority events because of tennis,” said Klockenga. “They are also very supportive of me. Some of the girls attend my matches.”

When the spring season started, Klockenga was slotted in the #4 singles position and struggled. She believes her struggles were caused by her doubts in playing that high.

Greenan admits she may have been placed too high, even though she is quite capable of playing there. The struggles she has gone through may very well be for the best as she has been able to grow because of them.

“In hindsight, coming in as a freshman and playing #4 [position] in the Big Ten was a big challenge. But, there was no doubt from the start she was going to get in and play and win a lot of matches for us.”

Greenan saw her go through a time of uncertainty. She just didn’t believe she could win. She lost a number of close matches because she didn’t believe in herself.

Even though he’s confident in her at the #4 spot, he has moved her down to #5 and #6 in an effort to regain the confidence she had.

With the season winding down, Klockenga is beginning to understand the game better and it’s allowed her to gain some confidence back.

“If I went back and replayed all the close matches I lost. If we were starting now, I would have probably won some of them,” said Klockenga.

“I think I’ve become more comfortable with making all the adjustments, not only to college tennis, but also living away from home in general,” said Klockenga.

By: Josh Mitchell

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