Transitioning from high school to college can be a difficult process for anyone. Moving to a brand-new country can be even more difficult. Freddy Wilkens, captain of the men’s tennis team, has handled both seamlessly. The senior communication studies major from Hanover, Germany, is in his third year at APU and has tried to make the most of his time as an international student.
“Here in the U.S., you have the great opportunity to get a good education, get a bachelor’s degree, and still be able to play tennis on a daily basis and on a high level. So that is just a great combination. Obviously, I wanted to study and it was a perfect fit to me just to combine both,” Wilkens said.
After losing his first two matches this season, he has gone undefeated in singles and more importantly, helped lead the team to an 11-4 overall record. The only senior on the squad said the team aspect is something that he was unfamiliar with prior to his time with the Cougars.
“It was quite different than what I was used to because just being out here on the court every day and having a whole team aspect that we don’t really have in Europe. [There,] you pretty much play for yourself,” Wilkens said.
Although it was an unfamiliar aspect of the game for Wilkens, he embraced the team and stepped up as a leader.
“It is a team thing. I just try to implement that and to have the guys work hard off the court, to get everything done and work together as a team and support each other,” Wilkens said.
Wilkens is described as quiet by both head coach Mark Bohren and sophomore doubles partner Tomas Aranguiz. Although “quiet” may not be a commonly chosen characteristic of a typical team captain and leader, Wilkens chooses to lead his teammates by the example he sets on and off the court.
Aranguiz appreciates what Wilkens has brought to the team with his ability to perform on the court.
“He just wins. We can always count on him to win, especially playing No. 2. Usually the guys are tougher compared to the other positions … and even then we can still count on him, so that kind of takes a lot of pressure off the other guys, knowing that he’s capable of winning most of the matches,” Aranguiz said.
While Wilkens uses a quieter approach to leadership, his calming presence has, at times, helped the team stay focused and not become too amped in critical matches this season, according to Bohren.
“He’s going to lead by his example on the tennis court and in the gym … so he does his part in a different way. He’s our captain, so he is just different than what we have had in the past, but it’s still effective,” Bohren said.
Bohren has enjoyed the presence that Wilkens has brought to APU in the past three years.
“He’s quite funny and I’ve always enjoyed talking to him. He’s a very intelligent kid. He speaks two languages and does such a great job in his academics, he’s just a good overall person,” he said. “It has been a real pleasure to have him on the team.”