Star BYU tennis player experiences real growth as a Cougar

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Men’s tennis player Francis Sargeant sat out the BYU Invitational in early September to give extra rest to an injury, but he was there to cheer on the rest of the Cougars.

Francis Sargeant reaches for a forehand in a match against San Francisco in April 2014. (Universe Photo)
Francis Sargeant reaches for a forehand in a match against San Francisco in April 2014. (Universe Photo)

During a break between matches, he casually hit across the net with a teammate while he joked around with the tournament’s chair umpire.

Frankie, as he is known to his teammates and coach, is perfectly at home on the tennis court, at BYU and in life as a whole.

Four years ago, he came to Provo as a freshman, a tennis player from England who was not a member of the LDS Church, which is not exactly BYU’s most common demographic. He said he made the transition fairly easily, though.

“A lot of the time people suspect that it is culture shock, and it is, but the community and BYU’s environment is really inviting,” he said. “I was able to make friends really quickly, and everyone was nice to me.”

He said his teammates helped him adjust to the religious part of BYU’s culture. He also started dating a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints soon after his arrival in Provo, and immediately after that he began attending services. In the spring of this year, he was baptized a member of the church.

“I was on and off with it for a long time,” he said. “I met with a lot of missionaries. I had a lot of questions all the time, like anyone should, I think, because it’s a big life decision.”

He said that two conclusions motivated his decision: the first was that he found happiness in the church, and the second involved having an eternal perspective.

“I was always of the belief that you had to know everything in order to get baptized, but in reality we have eternity to learn everything,” he said. “So I don’t know everything now, and that’s okay … if you think in the big picture, you have eternity to take everything in, learn everything.”

In the past four years, Sargeant has transformed in multiple ways. Once a new freshman on the the team and a non-member in a Mormon-dominated environment, now he is a senior team captain, an academic standout and a member of the church.

He credits his teammates with helping him settle into Provo life in the beginning.

“Being on the team help(ed) as well, because you have an immediate sense of belonging,” Sargeant said. “So the team, especially the guys on the time who were seniors, showed me how to go about maneuvering around BYU.”

Now he is the veteran, and he is creating that kind of environment for new players. This year, he starts his second year as the team’s captain. The younger players on the team say they trust him and look up to him.

“I really like Francis as the team captain,” said freshman Shane Monroe. “I look up to him. I’ll ask him for advice and stuff, and he’ll help me out.”

Jeremy Bourgeois, a sophomore on the team, said that Francis was a stellar captain both years.

“He did a really good job last year of controlling us, and this year he’s done even better,” Bourgeois said. “He’s a great leader. I really like him, we all respect him, and if we’ve got any problems we just go straight to him, so it’s really nice.”

Sargeant calls the team a big family, and he works hard to be a leader.

Sargeant serves at the Utah Invitational in Oct. 2014. (Jennifer Johnson)
Sargeant serves at the Utah Invitational in Oct. 2014. (Jennifer Johnson)

“I think last year I was orientated around making sure everyone’s okay and taking care of the team, rather than actually being a proper leader by setting a good example on the court, or in the weight room, or even in the classroom,” he said.

Sargeant does set that example, particularly in the classroom. In 2014 alone, the sociology major was recognized on the WCC Commissioner’s Honor Roll and All-Academic team and named an Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar-Athlete.

“The clue’s in the name,” Sargeant said. “You’re a student, and you’re an athlete, so those should be your two focuses.”

With such a set of priorities and stringent dedication, Sargeant is able to succeed in school and at tennis. He has an 80–37 career singles record and a 69–32 career doubles record at BYU. At first singles last year, his record was 28–11.

He named three of his most memorable college wins. The first was a match against San Diego, where he was far behind in the second set.

“I was a set and 4–1 down,” Sargeant said. “So I’m trying to think of that in terms of a sport Americans would understand. So football, you’re like, in the third or fourth quarter, and you’re a few touchdowns down, and you need to fight back.”

Next he described his experience beating another player from England on Boise State’s team.

“I hate losing to fellow British people in college,” he said.

Finally, as any true BYU athlete would, he relished in one hard-fought victory over a player from the University of Utah.

“I’ve never lost a singles match—well, I don’t think I’ve l’ve lost a doubles match, either—against Utah,” he said.

Head coach Brad Pearce said that Sargeant continually impresses him.

David Ball (left), Shane Monroe, and Francis Sargeant after the Utah Invitational in Oct 2014. (Jennifer Johnson)
David Ball (left), Shane Monroe, and Francis Sargeant after the Utah Invitational in Oct 2014. (Jennifer Johnson)

“He’s getting it all done. I think he’s leading on the court, in the classroom,” Pearce said. “I think he’s doing everything right. I’m really proud of what he’s continuing to accomplish here.”

Pearce said he is happy with the progress he has seen in Sargeant over the past four years.

“In all the ways that you want a student to grow and mature, Frankie’s done that,” he said. “I couldn’t say enough good things about him.”

Sargeant himself has seen that change, particularly in his priorities.

“When I initially came to BYU, my main focus was school and tennis, and that was kind of all I came to do,” Sargeant said. “Now that I’m a senior and looking back, not only have I improved, I hope, in those two areas, but you become a lot more well-rounded, and you understand a little more how to interact with people in a way that is productive.”

Sargeant appears to have given everything to his tennis career and his education at BYU, and he said that his experience at BYU has given him some things as well

“More than anything else, just being a better person, in life in general, doing the right things, you know, not being arrogant just because you’re a good tennis player or a student athlete,” Sargeant said. “My mom always told me, ‘Be kind and considerate to everyone,’ and that really resonates more with me now than it did before I came to BYU. … BYU as an institution creates people that are really well-rounded and down to earth, so they can go into the real world and take it on head on.”

Based on the comments of his coach and teammates, Sargeant embodies that motto.

Hear a clip of Sargeant’s interview below:

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