Meet freshman tennis player Austin Bates
Football, baseball and hockey are among the sports freshman Austin Bates played growing up in Georgia. But, when his mom suggested he try playing tennis, he was a little skeptical at first.
“It was kind of a push pull because I really liked being on a team and just kind of having that atmosphere,” Bates said. “But tennis is pretty lonely, especially in singles, and that kind of attracted me and kind of scared me a little bit.”
He started playing tennis when he was about 8 years old and started competing in tournaments when he was 10. The initial hesitation was erased once he started excelling on the court.
“I liked the competitive edge of everything on my shoulders and being able to control everything and not having to worry about other teammates having a bad day or anything,” Bates said.
He went to Pope High School and trained at the Stephen Diaz Tennis Academy in Marietta, Georgia. In his freshman year, his team won the state championship. He also traveled and competed all over the country and played in Intercollegiate Tennis Association tournaments his senior year.
Heading into college, he was the 81st ranked college tennis recruit in the nation in 2014, one of the highest ranked American players to come to FGCU, according to FGCU head tennis coach CJ Weber.
The campus and the proximity to the beach brought Bates to Florida Gulf Coast University. He also liked the vibe he got from Weber and the rest of the players on the team.
“Some teams in college tennis you can tell they are divided and there are some cliques,” Bates said. “But when I came here you could tell all the guys loved each other and that there was a good team atmosphere.”
The impact Bates has had on the team was felt immediately. He went 5-7 in singles and meshed well with his teammates.
“Austin adds a lot to the program,” Weber said. “He is an incredible addition… He brings a lot of skill, but almost more important than that, he brings a lot of passion.”
Bates was able to return to the team atmosphere he fell in love with in other sports and continued to excel on the collegiate level.
“College tennis is suited perfectly for his personality,” Weber said. “His outgoing personality is infectious to the team.”
The only aspects of the college lifestyle that Bates has had to overcome are time management and being away from home. However, the business management major had a 3.8 GPA last semester and is in the honors program at FGCU. He balances his busy schedule of school and tennis by fishing.
Bates has also had to adjust to the different rules in college tennis and the increased level of competition.
“He has a little bit of an unorthodox style,” Weber said. “He likes to take balls really early and he’s got a really good serve… he likes to impose his game on his opponents by taking time away and coming forward when he gets the chance.”
With the first semester of his college career over, Bates is looking forward to a successful spring season where he hopes to continue to contribute to the team in both doubles and singles play.