Athletic scholarships aren’t easy to come by, and most people would be elated to get one offer. So, you can imagine how 18-year-old lawn tennis player Anya King feels, being the recipient of four US scholarship offers – three full and one half. “I haven’t decided which one I’m going to accept yet. My parents and I are still discussing which would be my best option. But I have to do that soon because I have to start in August,” she told WMN. King said three of the offers are from Division 1 colleges, which are generally larger than other colleges and therefore have larger athletic department budgets.
King is the winner of this year’s Catch National Juniors Championship in the Under 18 Girls Singles category, as well as the bmobile National Open Championship, titles which she said did not come easy. “Winning those titles was really a dream come true but I had to work for them. Normally, I train five days per week on the court and two days per week at the gym. However, two weeks leading up to a tournament I train everyday on the court for at least one and a half to two hours. I also do more work at the gym. Thankfully, we have a home gym so I’d do the treadmill, weights etc. Mainly cardio.”
She admits, though, that her diet could be better. “I ensure that I eat enough fruits and veggies, but there are some areas in which I don’t do my best. For example, because I train a lot at night there are times when I don’t feel hungry and go to bed without dinner. That’s something I have to work on.”
The petite Bishop Anstey High School alumna started playing tennis ten years ago and has been playing competitively for seven. “Not all of the experiences have been of excitement and victories,” she chuckled. “I took some hard losses! But they have pushed me to explore my talents. I have always been one to set realistic goals, which I achieve in stages, so this made it easier for me to deal with the losses.”
She said when she first started playing tennis it was with the Dave Patrick Coaching Clinic. She entered the Dave Patrick’s Novice Tournament and placed first, and subsequently placed second in the Women’s Novice Singles. “Thinking about it now, I really admire my younger self because it was then I realised I really wanted to win and I had to work harder than the others.”
But her passion for the sport was really ignited when she was 13 and she played in her first Central American & Caribbean Tennis Confederation (Cotecc) matches. “I did pretty well. In the semis, I finished in the top 20, and that’s when I became serious about it.”
She said for most of her junior career she has made the finals and semi finals. “But there were two girls I always lost to. They were quite good and a lot of my tournaments ended in me being determined to win the next time. As I got older I just trained harder and my focus was to win,” and it paid off.
King, a former University of the West Indies sixth form student is awaiting her Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) results. She pointed out that although the offers she received were for athletic scholarships, her academic ability played a significant role. “I may have been offered the schols before I got my CAPE results, but it is still important. Plus, my CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) results were very important considerations.” And although she ended up a winner, she believes she did not live up to her full potential with her academics/sport balancing act. “Especially when I was in secondary school. I passed all my subjects but I could have done way better. Now that I am more mature I think I will do a better job of it.”
She said although she has always been determined to make it to the top, determination alone did not get her this far. “Tennis is an expensive sport and my parents and family gave me 100 per cent. They sacrificed so much for me. There were times when my parents were not able to afford something and my relatives from abroad would buy and send it for me,” a near emotional King said.
Over the years, she has had a number of coaches, to all of whom she is grateful. But she said coach Jermille Danclar will always have a special place in her heart. “He coached me from 13 to 15, and even when he stopped he always gave me good advice on and off the court. Even now as I’m getting ready to leave on a scholarship he is still advising.”
And as she leaves the shores of TT to explore bigger opportunities, King has already started mapping a plan. She plans to pursue a first and second degree in Sport Psychology. “Probably for tennis, or not.” And as far as her sporting career is concerned, “My dream is to go pro,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes. “But I’m taking it one step at a time. I want to represent Trinidad and Tobago and to be a role model for younger athletes. And when I get to the US Open or Wimbledon I’ll remember you and this interview,” she said with a smile.