Courtesy of Fort Hays State University Athletics
BY NIKKI SHERRILL
In ballet, there is someone else on stage to hide behind in times of difficulties; but not in tennis. For Lauren Lindell, a member of the Fort Hays State women’s tennis team, the sport taught her accountability and helped her grow as a person.
“I grew up doing ballet, but when I was 10 I decided to try tennis. I gave up ballet because I loved how in tennis, it was just me out there. I was the one who decided whether I won or lost and that was determined on how much effort and work I put into each match,” said Lindell.
The decision to give up ballet, which Lindell participated in for seven years prior to finding her passion for tennis, helped her more than she could have foreseen. Lindell grew up in the military world with her father being an F16 Pilot in the United States Air Force. With the military lifestyle always forcing families and service members to move frequently and quickly, it can be hard to keep tennis as a focus in the midst of the constant changes.
“It was always hard to keep tennis a priority when we moved because I would have to leave my team and find a new program that fit me well and start to work with a new coach. Tennis definitely helped me get more comfortable quicker because I had a built-in friend group and always had something to do amidst all the moving,” said Lindell.
The Lindell family transported their lives six different times, moving from South Carolina to Florida, back to South Carolina, then stops in Nevada, Utah and eventually Colorado. All of the moves made it difficult to find a “home” for Lindell, who fell back on tennis as her comfort zone.
“It was always fun to move and have new experiences, but I never really had someplace to call my home,” said Lindell. “My parents now permanently live in Colorado since my dad retired, so I usually look at that state as my home because of its beauty and how active everyone is there. I really love it there.”
It was in Colorado that Lindell graduated from Ponderosa High School in Parker while playing tennis. When the time came to start thinking about the next level, Lindell always knew she had a chance to play collegiately. With multiple offers from Division I programs, Lindell passed on those to go after the perfect fit for her playing career.
“Ever since I started playing tennis, I always dreamed of playing in college. I found that Division II was a stronger fit for me and my game,” said Lindell.
Thanks to a worker at a country club in Colorado near her house, Lindell’s Fort Hays State path began to take shape.
“There was someone who worked at the country club who played for Coach Flax and she told me to reach out to him and just see about the possibility of playing here. He invited me for a visit and I saw how nice everyone was here and the strength of the program. I really liked how I could see a balance in tennis and academics and that was what sold it for me,” said Lindell.
The change from the high school level to NCAA Division II is something some athletes find to be hampering. This is one aspect where the military world gave Lindell an upper hand.
“The military life made me open to change and willing to meet new people, and to have different experiences. I truly respect the military even more and what everyone involved in it goes through each day,” she said.
During all of her family’s moves, Lindell saw more of the world and garnered more experiences than most people do in their entire life. One of the most memorable experiences was her time living in Las Vegas.
“We lived in Nevada, and that was very different from anywhere I lived because we lived right in Las Vegas. It was cool to be able to walk to down the Strip every weekend and there was always something to do. Our family and friends always found a reason to come visit us,” said Lindell.
Besides her time in the of Nevada, the military life gave Lindell the chance to see the interesting side of being in the military and having a father who works so closely with it.
“I got to see a lot of things that a lot of people will never get the chance to witness because I’ve grown up on an Air Force base my whole life. We always went to a lot of air shows and I have a ton of knowledge on airplanes and fighter pilots that I wouldn’t have otherwise if it weren’t for my military life,” she said.
Lindell is in her sophomore year as a Tiger and currently sidelined with a shoulder injury, but plans to be back on the court for the spring season. She, along with the rest of the FHSU team, has a goal to make it to the NCAA Tournament at the end of the season and showcase their skills.
“We are definitely stronger this season, so I am hoping we are able to pick up more wins this season. Because we are so close, we trust each other more, which is helpful in doubles because we know our partner is going to be there and they will have our back,” said Lindell.
As Lindell progresses with her collegiate playing career, her father is adjusting to life as a retired service member. Now with her family permanently in Colorado, Lauren is able to go back “home” when she can. The military life changed Lindell and helped her develop into the person she is now, but not everyone really understands the impact of the military life unless they are living it.
“I’m really happy that we don’t have to move anymore and I know that he is safer now than when he was active,” said Lindell. “The military isn’t just about the person who is actually serving, though. The families behind them have to give up a lot. My mom has devoted so much of her life just to taking care of us while being able to move and give up her career so my dad could have his. To me, that is what the military life is and I loved growing up in it.”