Note: The following appears in the Duke gameday football program
Reed Rabideau’s unconventional journey to captain of the Clemson tennis team speaks to his unbridled passion for his sport. A fifth-year senior from West Palm Beach, Fla., his love for tennis began at the age of three.
Playing college tennis was always a dream, but his focus was split with soccer. Playing both sports, the individual aspect of tennis is what really intrigued him. When it is just you and another player, Rabideau said it makes him feel “gladiatorial.”
He continued both sports into high school, and his dream of college tennis continued, but he was generally unaware of the recruiting process.
Rabideau is a mechanical engineering major, but he still found time for club tennis. By his sophomore year, he became vice president of the club team, working up to president as a junior. He loved the fun and opportunities that the club team provided, but missed the intensity of a varsity squad.
While playing club tennis, Rabideau routinely sent emails to the varsity team’s coaches, asking about walk-on tryouts, always receiving the same response that they did not hold tryouts. He was undeterred, and during his junior year, he received a text from one of the coaches asking him to meet.
Rabideau walked into the office expecting the usual response, but was instead informed that they would host a closed tryout for him and a player he frequently trained with.
Two players, one spot.
An intense week-long battle ensued. Rabideau lost the Monday match in a close set, then he fell ill Tuesday, leading him to a quick loss in the second set. Running up and down the court, literally getting sick as he played, he persevered, knowing in his unwell gut that he needed this.
Unwilling to give up this chance of a lifetime, Rabideau, still ill, battled back to win the next two days. This led to an early Friday morning match. With little sleep, he amped himself up with some “cheesy 80s pump-up music” and was ready for the fight.
Rabideau won the first set, lost the second and found himself down 4-1 in the third set. Motivated by thoughts of naysayers from the past, 4-1 became 4-2, and then quickly the match was tied. Finally, he got some good luck on the final point to seal his fate as the newest member of the varsity team.
After sharing the news with his mother, the coaches quickly asked him to meet them at their match at Davidson, and Rabideau went from spectator to teammate in one day. The adjustment to the physical, mental and time management challenges of being a Division I athlete was challenging, but certainly worth it.
It took some time for the dream to feel real, but he recalled walking into the tennis center after a month and it hit him. Rabideau would not trade this crazy journey for anything and remains grateful for this unlikely opportunity.
Making the varsity team was not the reason he was working out at 5 a.m., every day, or the motivation for hitting serves four times a week as a club player. His motivation comes entirely from a love and joy for tennis. That passion remains as he became captain just seven months later. After consistently asking for extra workouts and teammates to hit with, he emerged as a leader, pushing himself and his teammates to be better.
Rabideau enters this season more comfortable and confident. With a team of many new and talented players, he anticipates a great season ahead.
As for after college, he is relying on these next several months to figure out whether he will pursue tennis or mechanical engineering. For now, all he can see is the 2018-19 season.