Jack Barnett finds brotherhood with BYU tennis

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In order to pursue his dream of becoming a professional tennis player, freshman Jack Barnett left Australia and joined the BYU tennis team in 2019. (Addie Blacker)

Jack Barnett was just 16 years old when he made his first international move to Spain — a country over 10,000 miles away from his hometown. 

Coming from Noosa, Australia, Jack’s dream of becoming a professional or collegiate athlete was limited because the country offered limited college sports opportunities. To pursue his dream, Jack decided to move elsewhere, without his family. 

Though being an athlete is often physically and emotionally challenging, Jack said the most difficult part of pursuing tennis was being away from his parents and younger siblings for consecutive years at a time. While pursuing his dream has come at a cost, Jack said the friendship he has obtained from the BYU men’s tennis team and the passion he holds for the sport have pushed him forward.

The Barnett family smiles together for a family portrait in Australia. Jack stands second from the right with his arms around his mother, Janine, and father, Andrew. (Janine Barnett)

Jack and his parents made the decision to send him to Barcelona, Spain, as a junior in high school. There, he had the opportunity to practice and learn with some of the top junior players in the world. While this was a difficult decision to make, Jack’s mother, Janine, said she has always loved aiding her children as they work towards their individual goals.

Jack Barnett wins the national tournament in Queensland, Noosa, Australia at age 12. (Janine Barnett)

Janine said the two factors that helped their decision process was the lack of top-level junior tournaments in Australia and the four-hour-long drive it would take to travel to and from their home to any of the closest major cities. 

“For probably at least a year before going overseas, Jack was only ever hitting with his private tennis coach, and whilst the coach was excellent, we knew that Jack needed to be also training in a squad situation and hitting with players better than him,” Janine said. “We felt that for Jack to really have a good crack at pursuing his dreams of being a professional tennis player, he was going to have to go overseas.” 

Jack was a student at the Barcelona Academia Sanchez-Casal for one year. As he was already studying with this particular academy, Jack was allowed easier means of transferring to one of the other three Academia Sanchez-Casal’s located in Florida, Georgia and China. 

Although he enjoyed his experience with the academy in Spain, Jack decided to transfer to the Academia Sanchez-Casal in Naples, Florida, where he said he would have greater exposure to college coaches. 

It was there that BYU tennis head coach Brad Pearce noticed the athlete.

“I liked what I saw. I liked his game,” Pearce said. “He caught my attention because he was sound technically and yet he had some good weapons. And I didn’t detect any weaknesses in any aspect of his game.”

Jack hits a backhand at practice to his teammate on the outdoor BYU tennis courts. (Addie Blacker)

Pearce said he could tell that Jack’s personality and work ethic would coincide nicely with BYU’s physical, academic and honor code expectations even if he wasn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jack visited BYU in February of 2019 for the first time. As the campus tour provides a deeper look into college life, it was an essential part of the 6-foot-3 tennis player’s recruitment.

“You know, it is a cliche, but I think these guys have a great brotherhood, have a great bond, and it happens very quickly,” Pearce said. 

Although he is from a different country and he grew up in the Anglican faith, Jack felt a connection with his teammates as soon as he arrived at the university.

“When I got here it was just like, you know, I’m part of the team,” Jack said.

The 2019-20 BYU men’s tennis team share a certain camaraderie that has become a brotherhood on and off the court for the athletes, including Australia native Jack Barnett. (Addie Blacker)

While Jack remains miles from his home, he said he is grateful for the opportunity to play the sport he loves at a college level. With the increased level of competition and daily practices, Jack said his perception of the sport has changed. He realizes how hard he must work in order to be a successful player. 

The freshman tennis player has yet to determine his major, but Jack said he is expecting to stay with the Cougars for his four-year college experience and is excited about the upcoming tennis season. 

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