Covid-19 has allowed many student athletes to stay on campus for the 6th year. In this week’s Tennis Spotlight I talked with Caitlin Bernard who is on campus for her 6th year at Indiana University. She has seen it all: Success, injuries, challenges, and a lot of new teammates. During this interview, we talk about her tennis life, challenges in college, training schedule, leadership skills, and her plans after college. If you want to check out her college results at Indiana University click here.
1. When did you start playing tennis and at what age were you when you fell in love with the sport?
I started when I was young but stopped playing. I didn’t get serious and love the sport till I was 12.
2. Living in the Northeast, did you have to travel far for competition?
There was not much as far as training goes near me. I traveled to NJ which was 3 hours away from where I lived in Massachusetts.
3. You did online school in middle/high school. What are some advantages to that? And do you see any disadvantages looking back?
It helped my tennis game, giving me a lot of time to train and travel for tennis. Academically, I struggled at the beginning of college because I had not been comfortable in the classroom with strict due dates. I was not used to sitting in a classroom and working. At the academy, we would wake up early, do a track workout, practice, go to school, and then play matches. It was way more intense than my college training routine. It allowed me to have a smooth transition into college tennis though.
4. What made you propel through the ranks to become a 5-star recruit? Was it your training, mindset, etc?
My training routine and mindset changed. I used to be super nervous on the court, but I found a way to lock in and was much more focused on the court.
5. How would you describe your playstyle?
I am an aggressive player, I grew up playing indoors. My serve and forehand are my strongest shots and I look to set the point up with them.
6. Do you like singles or doubles better? And why?
I like singles better, but once I got to college I fell in love with doubles. We struggle with the doubles point on my team, so we got used to playing down 1-0 going into singles. We just got used to it.
7. What is it like to clinch a match win?
I clinched at #1 singles against Penn State to win our first big ten conference match. I love it when the pressure is on me and everyone is gathered around cheering. I love the feeling when the match is all on my shoulders.
8. How did you choose Indiana? Were there other schools you looked at?
My goal was to play at a power five conference school. I also looked at Purdue, Minnesota, and Boston College. I wanted to branch out of the east coast and experience something different. I wanted a completely new experience and loved the school and facilities at IU.
9. Being far away from home did you get to go home during school breaks?
I go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. My dad is also very supportive and attends away matches all the time. He flies out all the time to watch me play, so I get to see my family a solid amount.
10. What kind of advice are you giving incoming freshmen as a 6th-year senior?
On the court, I try to help them get through the tough times. I try to help them adapt to a new culture and stay positive through the process. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when coming to school.
11. What do you love about playing tennis at Indiana?
I love the facilities. They make you feel like you are world-class. I feel like I was a part of a new era of Indiana Tennis and see how the programs have come together the past few years. After my freshman year, we got a new coach and had a new team. Two of my teammates and I shaped the team culture and we finished top 50 in the country.
12. What has been your biggest challenge in college? On or off the court. How did you overcome it?
Academics have been the toughest challenge for me. The balance of tennis and academics changed and it took me a year or two to get used to it. I had to understand that to play good tennis I had to do well in the classroom.
13. How hard was it for you to sit on the sideline due to ACL surgery freshman year?
It was very hard because tennis had been a huge part of my life. I had to watch my whole team practice and play matches. Thankfully, my coach helped me stay involved so I could still feel like I was a part of the team. He let me coach a little bit.
14. What has been your favorite memory on the court so far in your career?
I would say my fourth year at Indiana. We played Illinois when they were ranked 25 in the country and came back from 0-2 and beat a top 25 team for the first time. The two girls in my class and I all were able to contribute to the win.
15. How has your season been with covid? Has it been much more relaxed?
2 other girls and I on my team got covid. Our team got shut down for 2 weeks, but since then we have been training normally. We were not able to compete at all. Big 10 conference is not allowing student-athletes to travel and come back.
16. Walk me through the a typical training week this semester.
Monday through Friday I typically have class in the morning, practice from 3-5, gym or conditioning 5-6. Saturday, we have practice 9-12 where we play matches against each other. We also have a 2-hour individual lesson with a coach each week, and Sundays are off days.
17. Do you know if you are having a spring season yet?
The Big 10 Conference announced that we get to have only in conference matches. They split the big ten teams in half and told us that we can play each team in our section twice. We have 18 match dates, but only Big 10 conference matches.
18. Do you have any goals set for the spring semester?
I want to make the All Big 10 conference team.
19. What is your plan after this school year?
I am going to see if I can try and play professionally. If I cannot, I want to get a college coaching job anywhere in the country.
20. How has your time at Indiana set you up for success in the future?
I feel like I have got to experience so many different challenges, cultures, and successes. I feel as if I am ready for anything. Whatever I do next, I feel like I can relate to my experiences here.
21. If you could say how tennis has influenced you in 3 words, what would it be?
Hard Working, resilient, persevering