Some may not understand why a student athlete would leave their university for two years and stop playing their sport.
BYU is unique because it has many student athletes who do just that every year. Two of those athletes are Sam Tullis and Matthew Pearce, who have recently returned from LDS missions to join the men’s tennis team.
Since returning, Pearce and Tullis have been practicing as much as their bodies will allow them. They physically don’t have the same endurance and stamina as they did before their missions, so they are easing their way back into tennis to prevent any injuries.
“As far as their tennis game, technically speaking they’re still hitting the ball well,” BYU men’s tennis head coach Brad Pearce said. “The main thing that will take a little bit of time to get back will be their overall conditioning.”
Tullis played tennis just twice on his mission in Costa Rica; once with his companion and another time with an investigator.
Matthew connected with the tennis community in Taiwan, allowing him to hit the ball around and also find a teaching pool that resulted in baptisms.
While unable to stay in shape physically, both players say they feel their mental strength and discipline grew during the two years.
“The mission has helped me mentally to gain a better perspective of why I play tennis, but also how to manage stress and how to manage the struggle of playing,” Tullis said.
Serving missions has taught Tullis and Matthew time management and discipline. Brad emphasized those attributes will be vital to the team and their individual success.
“I think those are all great elements that can positively impact the team and can contribute to their individual successes,” Brad said.
Matthew said he loves the Taiwanese people and is grateful he took the time to serve a mission.
“My mission was a great time I got to spend learning how to love the Taiwanese people and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with them,” Matthew said. “It was a good place to do it because there aren’t many Christians there.”
Brad looks forward to having the two returned missionaries on the team. He is proud they made the decision to serve for two years.
“It’s great for our program and I’m delighted that these young men have made this decision,” Brad said. “We support them, we’re proud of them. Now it’s just about using those life skills that they’ve learned on the mission to help them become a better tennis player.”