No Ordinary Undergraduate

While typical college students spend their days in a fog brought on by the consistent combination of late night partying and ‘early morning’ (i.e. 10:00 a.m.) classes, a day in the life of one Trinidadborn undergraduate looks significantly different. Breana Stampfli’s day starts at 6:30 a.m. on the court. A champion national tennis player and captain of the women’s tennis team at Florida Gulf Coast University, Stampfli masterfully traverses the domains of full-time enrollment and athletic prowess, with several titles and a stellar G.P.A. to show for it.

Stampfli has been navigating the international pro circuit in tennis since the age of eight, when she first picked up a racquet. “I felt obsessed with it,” she says. “I kept playing every day.” By the time she was a teenager, Stampfli had progressed to international tournaments in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) circuit, allowing her to gain an international ranking and develop an impressive record. In 2013, at the age of 17, she won an ITF under-18 competition in El Salvador, achieving one of her major career goals and firmly solidifying her commitment to the sport.

Coaches at Florida Gulf Coast University recruited Stampfli to their women’s tennis team in 2014, prompting her relocation to Fort Myers, Florida, where she set her sights on pursuing a degree in Resort and Hospitality Management. Since then, she has been making giant strides both on and off the court, juggling her rigorous training regimen with her studies. “It wasn’t easy,” she says of her demanding schedule, “I would wake up at 6:30 a.m. to train, then we had fitness, then I would go to class for the rest of the day.” Despite the balancing act, Stampfli has done exceptionally well, crediting much of her success to the help of her teammates. “They’re all amazing,” she says., “They’re so smart, all of them. If I ask, they’re always there to help me. Up to now, we’re all like a family. All teams aren’t like that, but our team is really close.”

Her first season on the team, Stampfli was named Freshman of the Year, and this year, as captain, Stampfli led her team of six to win the 2017 conference tournament title and gain a ranking—an achievement that she considers to be the peak of her career thus far. “Definitely, this was my best season yet. I was undefeated in conference in singles play, [and] I got first team awards,” she says. Stampfli hopes to graduate from university this December. Looking to the future, she plans to keep playing tennis and to continue to represent her country.

Earlier this year, Stampfli copped the winning spot at the 2017 Bmobile National Open Championship in Tacarigua, but her journey to the top of the local tennis circuit has been rife with challenges.

Even though she has been representing Trinidad and Tobago as a member of the national tennis team since she was 14, financial support from the government has been notoriously hard to come by, making travel to the various international tournaments extremely costly for Stampfli and her family. Despite this, Stampfli says she is blessed to have unwavering support from her parents. Growing up, she says, “They always stayed to watch me train. They love to watch me play. Even now, they still come to the courts with me—I’m 21!”  When asked what motivates her to keep playing, Stampfli’s response is, “I think my passion for it mainly. I love it so much. I love competing the most. I like being successful.”

Stampfli’s idol is Roger Federer—as arguably the world’s top tennis player, this may come as no surprise to most, but what she sees in Federer and hopes to emulate is admirable. “Everything about him,” she says., “Not only his game, [but] his attitude is perfect. He’s so elegant and graceful and always gives his opponent credit. Everything about him I love. And he’s a fighter on court. I always have respect for my opponents, but I also get mad at myself on court, and he’s so calm on court. So I try to look up to him for that.”

Stampfli hopes to be able to influence the future of tennis in Trinidad and Tobago, and has found a true affinity for helping young tennis players through her charitable participation in free clinics put on by her college. “For the past two semesters, I’ve been coaching little kids one day a week. I really like the coaching. I love helping other people, especially inspiring the little kids, making them love [tennis], and just helping them to learn how to play,” she says.

Stampfli knows how difficult it can be for young athletes to fight their way through the system with little financial support, and is all too familiar with national teams that are often lacking in female players. She is hopeful that the Tennis Association of Trinidad and Tobago can find a way to beat these challenges moving forward. After all, she is a prime example of what can happen when things go right. Through her passion for, and dedication to, the sport, Stampfli has earned her place as one of the top tennis players in Trinidad and Tobago.

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