Van Heerden: a colorful star on, off court

Senior Marli Van Heerden sees her tennis skills as colored pencils--some pointy, some dull. Good thing she's always willing to sharpen those pen-skills as she goes.

Photo courtesy of Marli Van Heerden

Senior Marli Van Heerden learned life skills through tennis. She has been playing tennis for 17 years, starting at the age of five along with her best friend.

Both of her parents were athletes, but they never pushed her into athletics.

She ended up loving tennis, so she stuck with it. She likes that there are always improvements to make in tennis, so it never gets boring.

“It’s still as challenging as it ever was,” Van Heerden said.

Van Heerden had multiple colleges recruiting her to play on their tennis teams. In order to decide what college tennis team to pick, she prayed a lot. Choosing to attend UCA was a big decision because Van Heerden is from South Africa. She left Africa for the first time by coming to college.

Most incoming freshmen know at least a few people when starting college, but Van Heerden knew no one. In order to settle in, she made a point of meeting as many people as possible. Her upbeat personality helped her make many friends around campus.

Van Heerden has done an excellent job acclimating to campus. Not only is she an athlete, but she is also a leader on campus. She serves as the Student Athlete President, leading the Student Athlete Advisory committee. This committee is comprised of the two athletes from every men and women’s sport on campus.  

This is Van Heerden’s  fourth and final year on the tennis team. She cherishes being on the team.

“I think it’s the best thing ever,” Van Heerden said.

Van Heerden said she admires her coach; she said he’s like a father figure to her. Additionally, the relationships she has with her teammates are true friendships. She spends the majoirity of her free time with her teammates.

“Being on the team has transformed me,” Van Heerden said.

She has learned from the game that not everything will always go her way. The game has taught her how to deal with life.

The team taught her how to be selfless. Van Heerden greatly cares about her teammates. For instance, she said she won’t sit in the most comfortable spot in a van if one of her teammates is sleepy and needs it more.

Van Heerden used a colored pencil analogy to describe her growth through tennis.

“I was a bag of pencils that was unsharpened, ” she said, referring to before she started playing tennis.

She said each colored pencil represents an area of growth, and sharpening the pencils represents her growth. She credited the UCA tennis team for sharpening and evolving her as a player and as a person.

Van Heerden said she’ll get a new box of colored pencils for her next stage of life because there will be new areas where she can grow.

She is majoring in accounting and plans to pursue a master’s degree after graduation.

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