Many first-years have already finished their first collegiate athletic season at Bates College. For others, like Tiffany Cervantes ‘21, they have only just begun. Tiffany Cervantes is a member of the women’s squash team and like any other athlete, the transition from high school athletics to collegiate athletics was not easy.
“There was a huge difference between high school squash and college squash for me. One aspect was preseason and in-season training: it was intense, but the team pushes through together,” says Cervantes.
Compared to high school, the training for her has been much more difficult, and that has been something she has had to mentally and physically overcome. Each week, she dedicates herself to 1-2 hours of practice every day (except Mondays) to improve her game and perfect her skills. Additionally, collegiate sports offer a competitive environment that is significantly different to high school athletics. This takes some time to comfortably and emotionally adjust.
Cervantes started playing squash at the age of 13 years old, which she stated was quite late. Playing at the college level with other athletes intimidated and even frightened her, because some of her teammates have played for almost their entire lives. Fortunately, with the help of her teammates, she quickly felt at ease.
“They gave me a lot of good pointers and feedback during practices, and the captains, Vicky Arjoon ‘19 and Eliza Dunham ‘20, even offered to hit with me outside of practice,” says Cervantes.
Cervantes used the word “roller coaster” to describe her season so far. It is no surprise that there were many ups, but also plenty of obstacles. As an elite athlete, every game is important and Tiffany explains the devastation she felt when she lost her first college match.
“I felt devastated losing my first match. Unfortunately, it came down to my match being the deciding one, so the pressure was on, and I felt like I let the entire team down when I lost it,” says Cervantes.
What’s great about being a part of the athletic culture at Bates is having the support of your teammates and coaches. And by having that support, players like Tiffany grow and develop into not only better athletes but also stronger individuals.
“A highlight for me so far, which really shouldn’t be one, but it is now in hindsight, was when I lost my first match. Even though we face other schools as a team, when I’m in the court I’m on my own against my opponent. I was pushing my limit, played my best, and my coaches and teammates were there to give me a pat on the back in the end.”
On top of the immense demands and pressure of her sport, Cervantes also needs to balance her academic responsibilities. She explains her thoughts about what it means to be a student athlete at Bates, and similar to what other student athletes would say, it is definitely not a walk in the park.
“Being a student athlete at Bates is certainly a privilege to uphold but it’s also a bit of an obstacle,” she says. “You have to have your goals in mind and stay focused to succeed in both academics and your sport.”
Cervantes still has three more years of college squash to play, and she has big goals for her sophomore season.
“I want to continue working hard on the courts and do a lot better next season. I now know what to expect, and that’s definitely going to give me some leverage going into my sophomore season at Bates,” she concludes.
The women’s squash team played nationally ranked No. 24 Middlebury, No. 14 Williams, and George Washington January 13-14. It was unfortunately a tough weekend for the Bobcats, as they lost 5-4 to Middlebury, 8-1 to Williams, and 7-2 to George Washington. This Wednesday, January 17, the team will be playing Wesleyan in Connecticut, where they hope to come back with a win.