Reed Rabideau defied the odds to earn a spot on the tennis team.
For most athletes, the recruiting process begins in high school. During this time,college coaches are able to evaluate and identify players before offering them theopportunity to continue playing at a higher level.
For Reed Rabideau of the men’s tennis team, things went a little bit differently.He may not have been a high-school standout, but Rabideau’s determination andperseverance led to the opportunity of a lifetime.
“In high school, I played tennis,” said Rabideau. “I was decent, but I was neverextremely good. From what I’ve learned now, I missed so many things that I shouldhave been doing in order to get recruited. I barely played USTA tournaments.”
Growing up in West Palm Beach, Fla., Rabideau enjoyed playing tennis for fun,but it was only after deciding to attend Clemson when he made the decision that hewanted to compete at the highest level possible. With a lack of knowledge about therecruiting process, he took matters into his own hands.
“I knew before I came to college that I wanted to play college tennis, but I didn’tknow how to do it. When I knew I was coming to Clemson, I started sending emails tothe coaches asking, ‘When are tryouts?’ but I didn’t know that they didn’t hold tryouts. Ididn’t know anything.”
But the lack of possibility never deterred Rabideau from his goal. As a freshman,he joined the Clemson Club tennis team, where he spent three years competing,practicing and serving as president. Before and after club practices, he also began arigorous workout program to improve his game.
“I never played as much tennis as when I got to Clemson. I was waking up at5:30 every morning to go out before my 8 a.m., classes. On Mondays and Fridays, Iwould do footwork drills, Wednesdays I would go for a run and Tuesdays and ThursdaysI would lift to get in some extra work.”
It wasn’t until the second semester of his junior year at Clemson that Rabideauwas finally called up to the big leagues. After “a strange series of events,” as Rabideaucalled it, the Clemson tennis coaches contacted two players and offered them thechance to compete in a closed five-day tryout.
“It was a five-day tryout with three tennis matches and two days of running,” heexplained. “The first two days were tennis matches, and I lost the first one in three sets.It was a very good match. I played well, but the other guy played a little better.”
After the first day, things continued to take a turn for the worse. The morning ofthe second day of the tryout, Rabideau woke up with a new set of worries.
“I was extremely sick. I tried to alleviate what I was feeling, but when it came timeto play the match in the afternoon, I lost 4-2 and I was puking on both sides of thecourt.”
Despite this major setback, Rabideau’s confidence never wavered. He went on tonot only win the third day, but also set a personal best in the five-kilometer race. On dayfour, he powered through sprints in order to even the score at 2-2 and pave the way fora tiebreaking match early on Friday morning.
“I remember waking up at 5 a.m., and I had headphones in trying to get into theright mindset for a couple hours, because this was make or break. By 9:00 that day,someone was going to be on the team and someone wasn’t going to be on the team.”
Rabideau toughed out the first set to win 6-4, but he was still not feeling his best.As the match went on, he had lost the second set 6-2 and was down 4-1 in the third set.Just eight points a way from losing, Rabideau turned to an unlikely source formotivation.
“On the changeovers, I had a notebook that I was looking at. It was a bunch ofdifferent quotes of people telling me that I wasn’t meant to do this, that I wasn’tsupposed to do this or that I couldn’t do this. That has always been a big motivator forme…people telling me that I can’t. I was trying to prove them wrong.
“Every changeover, I’d look in the notebook and try to get more motivation. Down4-1 in the third set, I made the decision that this is what I wanted. I’d been working reallyhard for the past three years to try to get this and this was my one opportunity.”
Whether it was the notebook, the nonstop training or the goal he had set forhimself, finding the drive to win that match was crucial to his success. In spite of theodds, Rabideau came back to win the set 6-4, and with that, he also won a spot on thevarsity squad.
With his triumph, however, came a new set of pressures and responsibilitiesbeyond his wildest dreams. With his newfound position on Clemson’s campus,Rabideau still had to make the difficult transition between regular student and varsityathlete.
“I had no idea what I was getting into. I don’t think anyone really does until you’reactually experiencing what a D1 athlete goes through. You don’t really know whathappens between the time commitment, the travel days, the weekends that you give upand the spring breaks that you don’t really have.”
However, Rabideau is clearly well-equipped with the work ethic needed to keepup and said he would not trade the experience for anything in the world. He also pointedout that there is a tradeoff. While it has been harder to handle academics, a social lifeand his responsibilities on the team, he is grateful to be able to do what he loves everyday.
Before he had set foot on Clemson’s campus, Rabideau made the decision thathe wanted to play college tennis. His uphill battle with this decision exemplifies the ideathat it is never too late to do anything if you are willing to put the work in.
“If I didn’t have the work ethic, I wouldn’t be on the team. It is as simple as that. Ididn’t have the skills. I didn’t have the background. I didn’t have anything that I neededto get onto a college team.
“The only thing that was working in my favor was that I was willing to put in morework than anyone else.”
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