By VICTORIA RICKMOND
UMW’s Rachel Summers was recently named CAC Women’s Tennis Player of the Week, but the recognition and achievement was made all the more sweet considering that just a few months ago she was unable to play the game at all.
“Having had hip surgery just a little over four months ago, it’s an extra special Player of the Week award for me and shows that I’m back and ready to compete,” she said.
Summers, who is currently a junior at UMW, is originally from Florida and calls Orlando home. As a young girl she spent some time in Atlanta, Georgia, and her love for tennis was apparent even then.
“I’ve been playing tennis since I was nine, so for about twelve years,” she said. “When I lived in Atlanta, tennis was a huge sport and my mom was very involved, so I started taking lessons and really enjoyed them.”
Summers also thinks that many of the skills learned in playing tennis can be helpful in real life. “I think that teamwork is a big skill from tennis that can be applied to many jobs in the real world. As a team we really have to learn how to train together and compete together all for a common goal of winning. I also think that leadership is something that people can choose to learn while playing tennis. Playing on a large team, some people have to step up as leaders to teach those who are newer, and on our team there is a large focus on leadership.”
Just like any athlete, she has her personal favorites who inspire her. “My favorite female tennis player is Serena Williams,” she said. “I just love seeing everything that she has overcome and turned into greatness on the court. My favorite male tennis player is currently Zverev. He’s very young and it’s amazing to see someone the same age as me compete at such a high level.”
The tennis program here at UMW was not the only thing that drew Summer’s attention to the university. As a biology major, she certainly has her academic work cut out for her.
“I was drawn to this major because I have always liked learning how the human body functions, and I am on the pre-med track,” she said. “After graduation, I plan on going to medical school and becoming a doctor.”
Though those plans are still a little ways off, she does have some more immediate plans that are coming up in a few weeks. Her summer is scheduled and ready to go. “In addition to shadowing doctors, I plan to go home and volunteer at a local hospital. I’m also visiting Virginia Beach and the Great Smoky Mountains.” Summers often volunteers at a VA Hospital in Orlando over school breaks and said she also plans to volunteer at an animal shelter this summer.
Though she does not play any other sports, Summers still remains active and outside even off the tennis court. “I love to be outside as much as possible, whether it’s hiking or sitting on the beach. I also love hanging out with friends and meeting new dogs while outside.”
Ultimately, even after all the hard work it took for her to be recognized as Player of the Week, Summers said the most rewarding aspect of tennis was her recent comeback after an injury and subsequent surgery.
“You don’t realize how much you miss something until you can’t have it,” she said. “In my case, I couldn’t play tennis for 8 months due to my hip injury and surgery. So, for me it was really rewarding to come back to the game and basically start from the bottom learning how to move on the court again to being able to play #1 singles and doubles for Mary Washington.”