Meeting an opponent on the courts can be a mental game as much as it is a physical one. Find out how Danielle Collins, Oracle US Tennis Award winner, two-time NCAA singles champ, and full-time WTA tour player takes on the professional tennis circuit with strength, technology and a wise attitude.
How did you fall in love with tennis?
I fell in love with tennis when I was seven. I struggled with learning disabilities in school, so tennis was my safe haven and somewhere I could let out all of my energy.
Tennis just clicked with me. Tennis was an activity where I could just focus on the racquet, the ball and competing. I was addicted. As a kid, all I wanted to do every day was play and practice.
What I love most about the game is the mental aspect. I was always so determined and even when I was young, I was constructing points in my head in a way so that I was always planning ahead, envisioning a winning outcome.
How has technology changed how you approach your game?
Technology has made learning about my game much easier. For example, using PlaySight allows me to break down my matches and practices in a way that provides me with the highest level of professional analysis. I love using the PlaySight feature that allows you to look inside the service box to see where you are serving the most. It gives me a great idea of what targets I need to get better at hitting.
What is the greatest life lesson you learned from playing tennis?
The greatest life lesson that tennis has taught me is winning and losing. When I was growing up I had a very difficult time handling when I lost matches. I was so passionate and driven, winning meant everything to me. But as I got older and older, I slowly began to realize that winning really doesn’t define who we are.
In sports, I think what defines us the most is what we do when we’re getting beat – or how you respond when someone performs better, and might just be a better player than you at the time, or that day. As I have matured, I’ve learned to appreciate other people’s success more. I watch other players who are better than me, and try to incorporate things that I admire about their game into mine. I use lost matches as a positive learning experience. I analyze matches I lose, and figure out ways I can improve my game and continue to make small improvements each day.
By the end of the season during my freshmen year of college at the University of Florida, I was sitting out most of the matches. I had to focus on what was in my control, so I could get better. When I decided to transfer to the University of Virginia, I knew that if I worked my absolute hardest that summer and fall before our spring season came around, I could do better. That summer and fall, I had never worked so hard in my life.
When I got to school, I worked with the coaches for extra individual workouts. Plus, I did tons of extra strength and conditioning on my own. I went from sitting on the bench my freshmen year, to winning the NCAA Individual Championship my sophomore year.
The hard time I faced my freshmen year gave me all the motivation in the world to become better and to do better. My freshmen year didn’t go the way I wanted. But instead of looking at it as a loss, I used it to benefit me in the long run. A life lesson for which I am so grateful.
Looking back on your time playing tennis in college, what piece of advice do you wish you had been told?
One piece of advice I wish I would have been told while I was in college: To be in the moment more and not think too much about the past and future. That piece of advice helps me now by being more relaxed on the court and to cherish all of the incredible moments that tennis has given me.
When I’m not playing tennis …
“I am probably at Lululemon”