Students often hear about people from Illinois, Kansas or Florida coming to play sports at South Dakota State and wonder why they came here. The men’s and women’s tennis teams have players from places farther than a couple states away.
Out of the 18 players on the tennis teams, 15 of them are international student athletes from England, Brazil, Croatia and Venezuela.
Many international players come to the United States because they want to get an education while playing tennis, which isn’t always an option elsewhere.
“Most international kids look at your school, they look at the education and if they have any connectivity at that school,” Head Coach Joey Barnes said. “They might have had a friend that played at that school, so they feel a sense of familiarity to the school.”
Barnes makes sure when he is recruiting his players that they know that school comes first.
“School is the number one priority,” Barnes said. “They need to make sure they get that done with and then think to themselves if they can do the tennis thing for all four years and if they like it.”
Iasmin Rosa, a senior civil engineering major from Vila Velha, Espirito Santo, Brazil, knew she wanted both. Rosa said the support for tennis at college is stronger in the United States than it is in Brazil. There, she would be forced to pick one or the other.
“I wanted to be a civil engineer from the beginning. The recruiting company [I used] had three schools that wanted me,” Rosa said. “One didn’t have a civil engineering program, and the other wasn’t a Division I school and I wanted to play Division I.”
She’s been playing tennis since she was 7 years old. Her brothers and father picked her up from school and she watched them play tennis for hours. She started to hit the ball against a wall to herself until she started to play with her family.
As she grew, Rosa started attending school during the day and attending an academy at night where she practiced for a couple hours with a trainer.
“I came here more for academics than tennis, but now it’s more of both,” Rosa said. “It’s more of like a package deal, I get to play tennis and go to school to do what I want.”
Scouting at the international level isn’t the same as scouting across the United States. Recruiting companies help athletes overseas and make them take academic tests needed for education in the United States. The companies also help the international athletes make a recruitment video and send them to coaches in the U.S.
“The scouting is all the same, they are tennis players,” Barnes said. “All tennis players are the same, they all have that one job that they want to get done when they step onto the court.”
Barnes has been in the tennis community long enough to know his way around.
“I am lucky because I travel a lot and I know a lot of coaches and friends from all around the world that know about all of these international players,” Barnes said. “I’ve been around the tennis community a long time, and I don’t hesitate to call the representatives at these academies.”
The international players are used to being away from home. Before they start at SDSU, they’re already traveling their country for tournaments. Some players will go to academies eight or nine months out of the year and also play tournaments.
Rosa also knows what it’s like to be away from home. She was an exchange student in high school in Louisiana.
“SDSU was the best choice and I don’t regret my decision at all,” Rosa said. “I love it here.”