By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Kanyapat Narattana has seen it all for the Oklahoma State tennis team — the highs, the lows, the pressure to win. It’s something she’s been dealing with since she first stepped on campus four years ago.
At times, she’d let the pressure get to her, often getting frustrated when she doesn’t hit a ball just right.
But if there’s one thing Narattana has learned in four years, it’s how to deal with that pressure. Perhaps is why she’s taking a different approach this season.
“I just try to enjoy every moment and let it all out here,” Narattana said. “One thing that I have heard a lot from people is that you will regret it if you don’t do your best while you can. That’s my kind of thing that keeps me motivated.”
Another thing that keeps her motivated? Exceeding expectations and winning championships, like the ITA Central Regional Singles title she won a few weeks ago and the Dick Vitale Intercollegiate Clay Court Classic she’ll be gunning for beginning Friday.
“It gives me confidence that I can do this, and know what I can expect from myself,” Narattana said of the ITA title. “For me, I think that winning the ITA is not going to define anything the rest of the season. It just shows that hard work will pay off at the end, but we still got to keep working hard and do what we have to do. You never know what’s going to happen in tennis.”
Just like you’ll never know how a young player will do in college, something Oklahoma State coach Chris Young learned the hard way with Narattana after spotting her as a 16-year-old in the U.S. Open Junior Championships.
“I just saw so much potential in her and such a competitive person,” Young said. “But when she came here and she really struggled with her conditioning and her shape. She lost 60 pounds her freshman year, and once I saw that she could do that, I knew she could do anything.”
She also struggled with injuries going from a once heralded recruit to seemingly just another player on the Cowgirl team.
But then something happened her junior year. Right around spring break a fire was lit under her and since then her coach said she hasn’t been the same.
“That is the biggest thing that has changed, her approach to the game,” Young said. “Really toward the end of last year she really started understanding how to prepare for matches and tournaments. The way that she just prepares herself in general is the biggest change for her. She just has a really good mindset every day in practice.”
And that means taking time to enjoy the little things like sharing a laugh or helping a teammate correct a mistake.
“She’s doing exactly what we want her to do,” Young said. ‘It’s something that the rest of the girls are feeding off of. She has a lot of experience. She has more experience than anyone else on our team and she’s really setting a high standard and showing the girls what can happen. She’s just enjoying it, and it’s fun to see her play with the kind of enthusiasm that she has.”
That enthusiasm showed after she won the ITA title. Even weeks later, Narattana often asks her teammates to pinch her to make sure she isn’t dreaming.
“To be honest I never thought that I would win the regional before,” Narattana said. “It was great to win the regional, of course. It could be one of the best moment in my college tennis career. After the match I still could not believe that I just won it. It was such an amazing feeling.”
While that may have been the best moment in Narattana’s career, both she and her coach are confident that her best moments are still yet to come.
And each time Narattana takes the court, no longer is there that pressure to win. Instead, she’s just out there to have fun and live in the moment.
“I think there’s a little pressure, but at the same time I think she kind of sees this as her last opportunity,” Young said. “She doesn’t take any day for granted because she’s seen how quickly her career has gone. She’s taking each of these opportunities as a chance to finish her career strong.”