Recent St. Mary’s University graduate credits tennis for molding her

Grace under pressure

HARLINGEN – It was the tennis.

Grace Bell gives a shout-out to the sport that has molded her focus and discipline and empowered her sense of purpose.

“I just graduated from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio with a bachelor’s in administration and focus in marketing,” said Grace, a 2017 graduate of Harlingen High School South.

“I just started working for an insurance company in Houston called USI,” she said. “I’m working in their employee benefits sector and working my way up to becoming a consultant. For now, I’m an assistant account manager. I’m enjoying it.”

Grace has spent the past four years studying hard for her degree and playing hard for St. Mary’s.

“I really enjoyed my coaches and my teammates,” she said. “We were all like a big family, which I always look for in my teams. My high school team was a lot like that too when I was at South, so I knew if I was going to play in college that’s what I wanted.”

Grace, 22, began playing tennis when she was about 8 years old.

“I used to be a soccer player, and I kind of decided it wasn’t for me,” she said. “I’d seen people playing tennis a couple of times and thought it might be something that I’d want to pick up. So I started taking tennis lessons from the Country Club coach and really enjoyed it and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Much of her social life developed from tennis.

“I think what I like most about it is all the people that I’ve gotten to meet over the years,” she said. “Most of my closest friends I’ve met through tennis so that’s probably the main thing I’ve really enjoyed.”

Some qualities particular to tennis have made it work especially for Grace.

“I kind of like that you’re playing for yourself,” she said. “You don’t necessarily have to rely on a team. You’re out there on the court by yourself.”

Having no team members has some advantages, but it does add some stress.

“In a way it’s a lot of pressure, but I prefer just being out there by myself,” she said. “It’s nice to just go out on the court and it being you.”

A rugged tennis schedule coupled with a robust academic regimen demanded strong discipline throughout her formative years. That discipline has empowered her adult life in college and beyond.

“It’s taught me time management,” she said. “I was traveling most weekends out of the school year so I had to learn how to stay on top of my classes and when would be the right times for meetings, things like that.”

And the realities of a sport mirrored the things of everyday life.

“It taught me a lot of perseverance too, like with any sport,” she said. “It knocks you down some days and you know it takes a special person to be able to get back up and keep playing.”

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