Some University of Mississippi athletes are heralded nationwide for their gifts, while others who give just as much to the game often fail to receive recognition. In this series, we take a look at some of the lesser known UM athletes who are driven to achieve excellence in their respective sports.
Tennis is a game of perseverance, hard work and determination. To be successful at this sport, you must practice at all times. Not only does a player need to have incredible athletic ability, but they also need to be mentally strong, as tennis is both mentally and physically demanding.
To play this sport for fun is one thing, but to play on a collegiate level is impressive. Practices are longer and matches are tougher. Players on the collegiate level are always tested to their limits, and one player on the University of Mississippi women’s tennis team is constantly overcoming those limits. Allie Sanford is one of 10 players on the team, bringing great experience to the impressive group.
Sanford, a freshman, started playing tennis at the age of 10 and fell in love with the game. She has always known she wanted to compete at a high level, and getting the opportunity to play for Ole Miss helped her accomplish those goals.
“I wanted to play college tennis, because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” Sanford said. “I always knew I wanted to compete at a high level and against the best players in the country. I’m so grateful that college tennis and Ole Miss gave me the opportunity to do so.”
Deciding to play tennis for Ole Miss was an easy decision for Sanford. Her first visit sold her on the thought of playing tennis for the university. Stanford is a Phoenix, Arizona native, and while Oxford is a long way from her hometown, she knew she would feel at home because her sister, Brie, is currently a senior. “After my first visit, I knew that Ole Miss had something special,” Sanford said. “After meeting the team, campus, and coaches, I knew Ole Miss was the perfect fit for me.”
Not only is Ole Miss the perfect fit for Sanford, but the teammates she has made during her time on the team have become some of her closest friends. She is one of 10 members of the team, one of four freshmen, and one of four Americans. The other six players are from countries all over the world, including Egypt, Sweden and even Kazakhstan.
“I enjoy playing on a small team, because it gives me the chance to get to know all of my teammates really well,” Sanford said. “We are like a family, and I know the friends I have made on this team will be in my life for a long time.”
At times, tennis is all fun and games, but balancing the life of a student-athlete can be hard. On top of practices and tournaments, Sanford must balance her school work and study for tests and projects. As an integrated marketing communications major, she works just as hard on her school work as she does on the court.
“I would definitely say the most challenging part of being a student-athlete is time management,” Sanford said. “Between practices, workouts, and traveling, I have learned to use my time wisely.”
While balancing her time is the toughest part of her tennis career, Sanford loves the competition and seeing her hard work off pay off when she wins matches. She is a true competitor and gives everything she has to make sure she can be at her best at all times. “I would have to say my favorite part of tennis is competing,” Sanford said. “I love the battle and enjoy having something to work towards everyday.”
As for the future, Sanford is not sure yet what she wants to do with her IMC major, but she knows tennis will always be part of whatever she does, even after her time as a college athlete is over.
“I do not know where tennis will take me, but I know no matter what, tennis will always play a part in my life,” Sanford said. “I have always had such a strong passion for the game, and do not plan on that going away after college.”
Tennis has taught Sanford about discipline and perseverance. She said it has helped her grow and become a better person. “Tennis continually teaches me to always give 100 percent in everything I do,” she said. “It has also taught me to never give up. I am so grateful to be able to do something I love everyday.”
Right now, Sanford is taking things day by day, excelling in tennis and in the classroom. She loves playing for Ole Miss and is thankful for everything the sport, her teammates and the university have given her. “I just plan on continuing to work hard in all aspects of my life, and see where that takes me,” Sanford said. “Playing for a team and school I love has been a dream come true.”
Sydney Nutt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.