DURHAM, N.C. -- Hundreds of student-athletes have strolled down the walkways of Duke’s campus and moved on to pursue careers in professional sports. The changes to those athletes’ lifestyles can often be taxing on their physical and emotional well-being, but on rare occasions, life’s transitions as a prospective athlete take unique turns. Freshman women’s tennis standout Beatrice Capra can attest to those adjustments teenagers face when they begin college.
“At first it was really overwhelming. I hadn’t been in a normal classroom since ninth grade,” said Capra, who was home-schooled. “Being (with other) kids was a lot different.”
Capra entered her career in college sports through an alternative portal. After finishing high school in the spring of 2010, she spent the next year playing as an amateur on the USTA pro circuit. The highlight came in the summer of 2010 when she won a wild card playoff and earned an automatic bid to the U.S. Open, where she collected two wins over top-100 players and advanced to the third round of the draw before falling to 2006 champion Maria Sharapova.
Very few athletes can say they have competed against some of the world’s best professional athletes in their respective sports before heading to college, but Capra had that experience — on tour, and as the only amateur in the World Team Tennis pro league last summer.
“I’m really lucky to have been able to compete at that level before,” Capra said. “It’s really helped me and gave me experience with traveling a lot and playing on a bigger stage in front of bigger crowds. For some of the other freshmen (on the team), I know they’ve played in front of a big crowd before and that really helps because you can get really nervous. It really helped me prepare for the traveling schedule and being prepared for every single match.”
After her extensive exposure to the pro scene, Capra opted to enroll at Duke — walking past the open corridor leading to a career as a professional athlete, temporarily deferring that dream to attend college. The discipline and maturity necessary for an amateur athlete to make such a decision is praiseworthy, and Duke’s No. 1 singles player appears happy with her choice.
“I’m so happy,” Capra stated with a smile. “Being on the tour was such a grind, and you’re always by yourself. I was really lonely before and I feel like I finally have a structure, and I’m surrounded by people who support me and care about me. That’s really given me a lot of confidence. I’m really improving my tennis and I’m getting an education, so I can’t really ask for more. It’s definitely the best decision that I’ve made.”
Already the second-ranked college player in the nation according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) latest poll, it’s easy for the common spectator to say the Ellicott City, Md., native’s transition to college must have been easy, but Capra admitted to struggling when she first arrived on campus.
“In the beginning, it was pretty hard — just knowing that all my other friends my age had turned pro,” Capra mentioned. “Once I relaxed and opened my mind a little, I realized that this was the best situation for me. I think I’ve adjusted well towards everything.”
The freshman also believes she has matured as person, both on and off the court.
“My happiness used to be based on whether I won or lost a match,” Capra said. “I think coming to college has helped me balance out my a life a lot, and there’s so many other things I can concentrate on. Jamie (Ashworth) and Marc (Spicijaric, Duke’s coaches) have really helped me a lot. They’ve helped me realize that I can be much more than just a tennis player.”
Becoming more than just a successful tennis player is easier said than done. Finding balance in a daily schedule that constantly fluctuates and refrains from routine, young adults often endure great stress. Fortunately for Capra, she was taken in with open arms by her teammates.
“They’ve all been so amazing and so supportive,” Capra said. “They’ve really helped me settle in, meet new people and give me advice on what to do with my classes and my schoolwork. I’m a person who does really well when I know what my goals are and everything is really organized. I feel really prepared.”
Capra has her own way of staying on top of things, and balancing her life as a student athlete. It can be summed up in one word: positivity.
“One of the most important things for me is staying positive,” Capra stated. “It’s really easy to get stressed out and frustrated. You have to know what you’re working towards and that you’re doing the best you can to do the best that you can do.”
Staying positive has been evident in Capra’s play, especially following her latest list of achievements. Just last week, Capra was named the ACC Player of the Year, ACC Freshman of the Year and the ACC Tournament’s Most Valuable Player – the second player in program history to garner all three honors in the same season since Karin Miller in 1997.
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