2XU Ambassador, Danielle Lao Talks Tennis, Getting Recruited, and Her Book

2XU Ambassador, Danielle Lao Talks Tennis, Getting Recruited, and Her Book

Jake Hartman of SFA sat down with Danielle Lao a former USC women’s tennis player. Danielle is currently on the professional tennis tour and she recently wrote a book about her college tennis experience titled The Invaluable Experience. She was interviewed about her recruiting process, how she chose USC, and how her time there has benefited her today.

JH: As one of the best junior tennis players in the country, when did you realize you wanted to play college tennis?

DL: All throughout junior tennis I dreamed and believed that I would play in the grand slams one day. When I was 16 reality started to hit me. My parents played a huge role in advising me in my tennis career. Together we decided to play college tennis first and then I could pursue a professional tennis career. This way I was not giving up my lifelong dream, or a free college education.


JH: After almost committing to UNC you made a last minute decision to attend USC, what happened?

DL: When it came down to choosing USC over UNC last minute, I chose USC because I was apprehensive about leaving home (California). USC was not in the picture at all when I nearly chose UNC. Before USC, I was torn between UNC and Northwestern, which are two great schools. UNC was more appealing at the time because they portrayed to me how great their athletic support was and they showed me the Tarheel network. I loved the vision the coach set out for their program, but my only concern was that it was so far away from home. As fate had it, USC gave me a last minute call. I knew that committing there would rid me of my worries about relocating to UNC. USC to me had the similar characteristics that I loved about UNC and it was only 20 minutes away from home.


JH: What to you was the most special aspect of playing a college sport?

DL: The bond with your teammates is special. Sharing the good and bad days with them was one of the best things (if not the best) about college tennis. Seeing individuals with different backgrounds and from different places come together to achieve a common goal and support each other in the lowest moments has to be one of the most invaluable experiences.


JH: Before the book you wrote (The Invaluable Experience) you were blogging on Tumblr. Why did you start your Tumblr? Why did you decide to eventually write the book?

DL: My blogging (on Tumblr) was therapeutic because I was so sad that my college years were over. I felt so strongly about all I had learned in my 4 years at USC that I had to write it down for myself to remember. I treated my Tumblr as my public diary. After being approached by Rick Limpert to write a book, I finally had enough momentum and belief in my writing that I was confident enough to go ahead with the book. I was more settled and comfortable in my own skin to actually publish officially and publicly what I had written.


JH: Is your book universal, in the sense that it’s for more than just tennis players?

DL: This book has a much wider audience than people anticipated it to have. Although I spoke about these topics with reference to my college experience, I think everyone (high schools students, professional athletes, business professionals, etc.) can relate to the things I wrote about. The other day I had a parent come up to me and tell me how although her daughter is just in high school, she can see the parallels on how her daughter’s involvement on the high school tennis team is an invaluable experience on a smaller scale.


JH: Like we do here at SFA, you talk a lot about building relationships and networking in your book. How important have those life skills been for you?

DL: The more people I meet the more I realize the value in building relationships and networking. Tennis has given me the opportunity to meet so many people that I would not have had otherwise. Being able to formulate ties and bonds with individuals gives me something special that will last beyond my years of playing tennis.


JH: What advice do you have for current high school athletes that are just starting their recruiting process?

DL: I would tell them to keep an open mind and not to be too haste to make their final decision. Many colleges will pressure you with deadlines and from my personal experience, I maximized the days I had left before signing day and it made all the difference in my decision. I would also tell teenagers to keep in mind that when they get stressed about making the right or wrong choice, there really is not a wrong choice. There are good choices and better ones. Being recruited is a huge honor and one should keep in mind that he/she is more likely to end up in a good place than the rest of his/her peers who do not have the same opportunity.

Follow Danielle Lao on Twitter and at her blog


Article Originally Posted: Scholarship For Athletes by Jake Hartman

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