Recruiting and College experience of Professional Paddle player Patty Llaguno

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This week, MADE Scholarships will highlight the college experience of one of its Spanish agents, Patty Llaguno. Patty is a former college athlete who played on a tennis scholarship for the Berry College tennis team in Rome, USA. During her college career Patty has won many awards including conference and regional player of the year. After college Patty became a professional paddle tennis player (www.pattyllaguno.com) and has great success in this. At the moment Patty is ranked top 3 in the world and she has been Spanish champion numerous times. Last year she achieved her biggest accomplishment by becoming world champion. Read below about her experience with the recruiting process and her time in college.

Patty could you tell us a bit about your background?
I was raised in La Manga, a small town in the southeast of Spain and i started playing tennis because my father was a tennis teacher. I also started playing padel, which is a similar sport but with smaller rackets, a smaller court, and is always played doubles. I used to play both sports and while I played a lot of tennis, I managed to win many padel national tournaments. When I turned 18, I wanted to go to the USA to learn English. I had the opportunity to do it through tennis when I received a full scholarship at Berry College.
 
In 2003 you decided to pursue your Bachelor degree in America. What were your reasons to take this step?
I wanted to go to America because i knew Universities there give a lot of opportunities to athletes that want to study there. I also wanted to have the experience to live in another country and learn the language. At first I wanted to go just for one year, but I liked so much that i ended up finishing my four-year Bachelor degree.
 
You eventually ended up in Rome (GA) at Berry College on a full tennis scholarship--could you tell us what made you decide to go to this university?
I decided to go to Berry because it was the perfect environment and place for the experience that I was looking for. I liked small-sized universities and peaceful enviroments, and Berry had both of those qualities. Berry also had many students from other countries and that helped me meet other people in the same situation as me. Both the tennis and academic programs were very good at Berry so I knew that was the school for me.

What were some of the biggest challenges during the recruiting process for you?
It was not an easy process for me. At first I thought I did not have the English skills to make it, but I scored well on the tests needed to be enrolled in college. All the paperwork was a tough process as well, and MADE can help students make this process much easier and less stressful. Also, my tennis level was examined very closely by the College coaches, and i was very nervous during the try-outs.

You were studying and living with international athletes while you were in college. How was that experience?
I felt lucky to meet so many great people during my college career. We shared very good moments together. During more stressful moments I felt very supported by people who were also studying far away from their home. I made great friends and even though I am now back in Spain, I know I will always keep them.

Was it easy for you to balance your class schedule with practice and competition?
I remember professors always being very helpful. When the team traveled and I had to miss class, they were really comprehensive because they knew had to represent the school in competition. I was able to schedule all my classes in the morning because tennis practice was in the afternoon. I had less time to study compared to other students, but the school provided facilities and tutoring services for all classes.

In your opinion what was the level of play in the NAIA?
I played the number 2 position in singles and the number 1 in doubles and we faced many different schools. The level was sometimes very high and other times not so much. Some schools have very good players, but I always tried to learn on the court even though I couldn´t win every match.

Being a student athlete, how well did this experience prepare you for your professional career in paddle?
The experience of training every day and competing on such a frequent basis for tennis during my college career really helped me make the decision to become a professional paddle player. Discipline was very high during those four years and when I came back to Spain I missed the competition. Physical conditioning for paddle is not so different from tennis, so I started to train right after I graduated from Berry and  was ready for paddle tournaments just a few months later.

Do you have any advice for young motivated European athletes who are thinking about studying in the U.S.?
I would just say DO IT! i know is a tough decision and you might not want to go far from home, but I would say it´s completely worth it. I would repeat the experience again if i could, it was great to meet people like me but from all over the world.

What advice would you give young players who are thinking about going professional after college?
It´s an decision for which you can´t hesitate. Playing a sport at a professional level doesn´t last too many years, so if you really feel like you want to give it a try... just do it!



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