Big 12 Campus Correspondent
In college athletics, most underclassmen look to their seniors for guidance and encouragement. For Oklahoma State women’s tennis, Nataliya Shatkovskaya has her hands full because she is the only senior on the team.
Shatkovskaya, a native of Minsk, Belarus, chose OSU in an out-of-the-blue way when deciding where to go to college.
“It was an unexpected choice to come to OSU because I had never been to the United States,” Shatkovskaya said. “I wanted to go to a university that I had at least a person I know from back home that could help me if I experience any difficulties with language or organization”
One of her friends from back home was also attending Oklahoma State and she heard the women’s tennis program was looking for a player for the upcoming semester. Shatkovskaya contacted the coach to explore her opportunities. After being offered a full scholarship, she decided to give Stillwater, Okla. a shot.
Shatkovskaya speaks four different languages, including Russian, Belurussian, Polish and English. Although she knew English, the transition to the states was still difficult.
“The transition was huge when I first came to the United States,” Shatkovskaya said. “Everything was different, starting from a foreign language that I always had to speak in, continuing with people that surrounded me, food and the place itself. Once the transition was over, I started enjoying the life style I have now .”
Shatkovskaya has had an impressive journey to her senior year, including a 5-2 record at No. 2 singles this year and went 8-3 in the fall. Although tennis is fun to play, she is always ready to work hard.
“We usually practice every day including weekends apart from some exceptional days and we work out twice a week in the weight room,” Shatkovskaya said. “Additionally, we always do footwork exercises on the court or some special running and moving exercises specifically for tennis.”
Shatkovskaya is the only senior on the team this spring and hopes to lead the team with encouragement and by example on the court.
“I am trying to work hard every day and set a good example, showing that being a senior I have the same obligations and responsibilities,” Shatkovskaya said. “When the team has any disagreement, I try to come up with a compromise solution so everybody is happy.”
While she is happy to be a leader on the team, Shatkovskaya realizes that adds some pressure on to how she should perform and act.
“Being a senior makes me have to be an example for freshmen who are looking up to elders,” she explained. “But I am also more experienced with how college tennis works and can give them an example, teach them something or cheer them up whenever needed. I hope they will only learn good things from me.”
When Shatkovskaya gets down at times, she has her team to bring her up. She says that the team chemistry this year is one of the best since she has attended OSU.
“I like our present team,” Shatkovskaya said. “We get along well with each other and that helps us stay bonded together. Being friends off the court also helps encouraging and listening to others on the court. Having your teammates support always makes you more motivated and willing to try harder.”
As the lone senior, Shatkovskaya uses her own experiences to teach her younger teammates.
“If they get upset after the match, I try to cheer them up and talk about my stories and experiences as a freshman,” Shatkovskaya said. “I tell them that it’s normal to lose sometimes, because every person has down moments and they have another three or four years to prove themselves.”
Shatkovskaya has had an impressive career at OSU with many ups and many downs, but all her matches are important to her.
“Either we win as a team or lose, it’s always an experience or we always can learn something from it,” Shatkovskaya said. “And it goes without saying that every time we win a match, especially against the higher ranked team or biggest rivalry, it becomes my favorite memory.”
Tennis has many rules and is a hard sport to learn but with practice and dedication, Shatkovskaya has put up impressive numbers. But to her, the sport is simple and exciting.
“I like playing tennis because it’s fun and competitive sport,” Shatkovskaya explained. “And the best part is that there is always room for improvement. Tennis is the game when you don’t know what is going to happen until the last moment, until the referee says ‘game, set, match’. Therefore, you have to fight and believe in yourself that you could win every time you step on the court.”