The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Shane Vinsant

 
 

The beginning of an athlete’s journey to an NCAA program can start at a young age. Tiger Woods, for instance, started playing golf in early childhood by observing and mimicking the movements of his father as he hit balls at the driving range.
Similarly, Texas A&M men’s tennis player Shane Vinsant developed his passion for the sport when he was three years old.
“I actually started hitting off the wall with a nerf tennis ball at age three,” Vinsant said. “My dad’s a tennis coach. My dad started me out and just started it off real fun as a real young kid and I fell in love with the game. He has really worked with me all the way up.”
Growing up, his father was a high school tennis coach in their hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas, and Vinsant was often found at the school’s tennis courts during the team’s practices, participating when possible.
“When I was growing up, I was always out at the courts practicing with the older guys with his high school team,” he said. “I was always out there, spending long days, six hour days, eight hour days at the courts just hanging out with the older guys.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that Vinsant was defeating older competition long before his high school days. His family would move from Nacogdoches to Keller, Texas, in part to find stronger competition for Vinsant. There, Vinsant partook in a local tennis academy and competed in various junior events, all part of the calling card of playing an independent sport such as tennis.
As Vinsant grew, so too did his talent. In 2011, Vinsant competed events that included junior Grand Slams such as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. His greatest success in the slams occurred with doubles partner Mitchell Krueger in the boys French Open. Vinsant and Krueger won four consecutive matches before falling to a Spanish duo in the open’s championship match.
“It was an unbelievable experience, one of my favorite memories of tennis, just getting to see sights and everything there along with playing in front of big crowds,” he said. “I think it was a big confidence boost and confidence builder to know that, if I’m struggling, I can always remember that I had good success there.”
Krueger, Vinsant’s doubles partner, had also been an Texas A&M commit before deciding to forgo his college career for an early start on the professional tour. Vinsant, however, had his mind set on playing college tennis for A&M along with head coach Steve Denton and assistant coach Bob McKinley.
“I think every good junior tennis player who has dreams of playing professionally has that sort of in their mind, at least considering it,” he said. “But I was never too close to turning pro because I just really wanted the college experience.”
Ultimately, Denton’s and McKinley’s backgrounds as successful professional tennis players proved to be the deciding factor in Vinsant’s commitment to Texas A&M.
Denton, in return, has enjoyed the opportunity to coach Vinsant and see him thrive within the A&M tennis program.
“He’s a really tenacious player,” Denton said. “When he came to us, he was a bit of a more defensive player, I thought. In this last year, year and a half, he’s really stepped up his level, and has become a lot more offensive as well and obviously when you have a player that can defend but also plays good offense, it makes him a very difficult player to play against.”
The beauty of playing college tennis does not come without its hardships. Vinsant, a finance major, has to find ways to balance time between academics and athletics. This can be a grind, too, when considering that he practices tennis three to four hours, goes through a fitness program and receives treatment, all on a daily basis, not to mention the almost-weekly tennis tournaments.
In his limited free time, Vinsant enjoys to fish, hang out with his girlfriend and play the guitar.
“I’m kind of a rock guy,” he said. “I haven’t been playing a lot of guitar because I’ve been so busy. I’m a huge music fan. I love going to concerts and stuff.”
Vinsant’s love for music branches into his pre-match rituals as well.
“I kind of do things the same way every week, the same way every match,” he said. “I’ll listen to the same exact playlist in the same order while I’m getting treatment. And I’ll still have my earphones in — I like listening to music before matches — while we’re warming up.”
There’s a saying about superstition: “It’s only crazy if it doesn’t work.” And for Vinsant it has, more or less, worked. The junior is coming off an All-American season where he helped guide the Aggies to an SEC post-season championship and a trip to the NCAA Round of 32. He entered the 2014-15 campaign with an ITA No. 15 preseason singles ranking and an ITA No. 23 preseason doubles ranking with teammate Harrison Adams.
And if he could have his way, his future will involve a racket and a tennis ball.
“We’ll see. I want to give it a shot after college to play professionally,” he said. “I think it takes a good few years to really give it a good shot on the tour, so, I think whether I’m succeeding or not I’ll still be giving it a shot on the tour, who knows where. Maybe in five years I’ll be in Asia playing in a tournament.”
Shane Vinsant, finance junior, is coming off an All-American season where he helped guide the Aggies to an SEC post-season championship.

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