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Triple Threat:Tennis Player Santos raising the bar in academics, athletics and community involvement

Tennis Player Jillian Santos has excelled in academics, tennis performance

April 27, 2011


Triple Threat:Tennis Player Santos raising the bar in academics, athletics and community involvement

Tennis Player Jillian Santos has excelled in academics, tennis performance while showcasing leadership role in community involvement amidst three-year career at BU

VESTAL, N.Y.—Junior Jillian Santos has played an instrumental role in shaping the success of the Binghamton University women’s tennis team over her stellar three-year career. An innate leader who embodies the spirit of women’s tennis, Santos was elected as Vice President of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in the spring of 2010. She has served as an exemplary student-athlete over her three years, earning America East All-Conference and Academic Honor Roll accolades as a freshman and sophomore. Playing with a dominant senior trio of Anna Edelman, Lauren Bates and Yulia Smirnova, Santos has quietly climbed the program’s all-time wins list to sixth in singles competition (69 wins) and seventh in doubles play (58 wins).

Can you describe how you became involved with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and what some of your responsibilities include?

I was involved in SAAC since my freshman year. Seeing what SAAC was all about, I was very interested in becoming more involved. My sophomore year, I had the opportunity to participate in the conference SAAC meeting in November with Bob Nolte (former president of SAAC) and Cazal Arnett. There, we discussed different rules and legislature that would apply to all the schools in the America East. I really enjoyed learning about the SAAC groups at other schools and gaining perspective on other things that we could do at our school. Last spring, I was elected vice president. Some of my responsibilities include attending extra meetings, helping in event planning and organization. Even though we have our assigned titles, all of the executive board members help each other out, and we really work as a team to stay involved and keep things organized.

You also participated with the mentoring program College For Every Student. Can you elaborate on your experience with this program?

I learned about the College For Every Student program from SAAC. Last semester I was a volunteer mentor for CFES at West Middle School. Once a week, a group of athletes (not necessarily part of SAAC) would go to West Middle School and talk to a group of students, about homework or whatever was on their mind really. I got involved in it a little later than the start date, so I was only able to make it a few times but it was a nice experience.

Over the winter, you were a presenter for the STARSportsmanship program. What was that program all about?
Every SAAC group in the conference has done a sportsmanship presentation of some sort. The name of the program is STARSportmanship program. SAAC had tried to do this last year, but there was a lot of weather related issues. So this year we decided to do it with students from West Middle School since we had already been working with them. It was really nice to see familiar faces as I recognized some of the students from mentoring. During their visit, they received signed posters of the men’s and women’s basketball teams. They heard our presentation about what sportsmanship is. They also had pizza and got to watch the men’s basketball game.

With a major in psychology, what are your career aspirations?

I think I would be best fit in a career in education. I would like to be a counselor or an elementary school teacher. I really enjoy working with children. I do plan on attending graduate school, I just don’t know where yet.

The women’s tennis program posted the highest combined GPA among all teams at Binghamton during the Spring 2009 semester (3.47). How does the team manage to balance school and athletics so effectively?
We are very proud of our accomplishment last spring semester. All of us on the team are very dedicated to our schoolwork. We know that school comes first. We realize that we are lucky enough to be a part of a team, but we also know that tennis is not a means to an end. Education and maintaining our grades is our first priority as a student-athlete.

What has been your key to success personally in attaining such good grades while competing for a Division I tennis program?

My key to success in managing my grades while competing is time management. Organization is crucial to getting everything done on time and efficiently. I am constantly making to do lists. My planner is always by my side. I have a big calendar posted above my desk letting me know when everything is due. I think trying to stay ahead and using your time efficiently is the most important thing. If I know I don’t have practice or class, but there is a tournament/competition in the upcoming weekend, I will try to get all my work done before then. It can be stressful and overwhelming sometimes, but I try to stay on schedule as much as possible.

How has the team adjusted to first-year head coach Libby McGovern?

The team has adjusted to our new coach, Libby, extremely well. The transition from a male coach to a female coach was very smooth and it seems to be beneficial for us. We each have an open relationship with our new coach enabling us to remain committed and work hard towards our goals. All of our starters have returned this year and we came so close to winning conference last year, maybe this change will give us the push we need.

What other sports did you play growing up?

When I was younger, I participated in dance and gymnastics. I really loved gymnastics and was sad when I had to stop because it was too expensive to do both gymnastics and tennis. But tennis worked out well for me. In my senior year of high school, I made the varsity volleyball team and I really learned to love and appreciate the sport. I wish I had joined earlier in high school and was able to play more, but I always knew that tennis was my main sport to focus on.

What individuals have helped shape your game over the years?
All of my previous coaches have helped shape my game. My first tennis coach is named Joseph Donnay. He spent hours and hours working with me. I learned a lot over the years with him. He still comes to some of the tournaments and matches that are close to home. My other coach Marvin Dent is really knowledgeable about the sport. He helped me with different strategies while on the court. I also owe many thanks to our former Coach Mike Stevens. I learned so much while he was our coach here at Binghamton. I improved so much getting more consistent in singles and becoming much more confident in doubles. Coach Stevens was very encouraging to me and really took the time to help me harness my game. Other than my coaches, my family and friends have been an incredible support group who has helped shape my game tremendously. Most importantly, my teammates have had a huge role in shaping my game. When I first came to Binghamton, Anna Edelman, Lauren Bates, and Yulia Smirnova were known as a very dominant freshman trio. They all had great records playing at 1, 2, and 3, respectively. My main goal was just to keep up with them and I have really learned so much from them. Anna has taught me about playing smarter using different spins. Lauren taught me about high percentage playing. Yulia taught me a lot about how far hard work and determination will get you. I really learned something new every day since I have been a part of the team. There have been many people who have added to my success and I thank everyone for all of their support.

Who are your role models, both athletically and personally?
My athletic role model is Kim Clijsters. She is a former number 1 player who has won the US Open in 2005, 2009, and 2010. She is my favorite tennis player and there are parts of her game that I try to emulate. She is my favorite tennis player for many reasons other than her athletic talent. She was once known to be the nicest player on the pro-tour. She defies that old saying that nice guys finish last. Her work ethic also proved to me that if you don’t give up and keep working hard at something, you can achieve your goal. She lost in the finals of four majors (all very close) before winning her first major. Many people thought she would never win a major because of her nerves. But she pushed through and was able to win three majors and counting. I hope that our team can take something from her. We have come so close to winning conference. If we keep pushing ourselves and keep working hard, I know our time will come and we will win! Kim Clijsters is also involved in many charities and has a family. She seems to have her priorities straight and is a well-rounded person overall.

My sister is also my role model. She also played on the tennis team here at Binghamton University for a year. She influenced my decision in coming to Binghamton because she loved it so much. She just wanted me to have the same opportunities that she had. She moved to California after she graduated with a major in asian-american studies and is attending graduate school at San Francisco State, while teaching. She is a language arts and religion teacher for grades 6-8. Over the summer, I worked at her school as an assistant teacher and my eyes were really opened to the world of education. I think my sister is one of the bravest and strongest people I know. She is intelligent, independent, and passionate. She is very caring and has a big heart. I love her so much. She is my best friend and I only hope to be able to follow in her footsteps.

What’s the best part about playing tennis at Binghamton University?

There is no best part of playing tennis at Binghamton University. All of it, every single part of it has been an unbelievable experience for me that I would never trade. I feel so privileged to be on the tennis team here. I get to do something I love everyday, while going to school. I am so lucky to be a part of an athletic community that really supports each other. I just love competing. I love representing my school. I love practicing. I love my teammates. I love meeting new people. I love getting involved and making a difference. I love being a Bearcat.

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