COLUMBIA — MU tennis player Chrissy Svetlic hasn’t made name for herself as a loud, exciting or outwardly emotional player. She’s passionate about her sport, but she is a bit more reserved and quiet in her demeanor. The senior is not a woman of many words or highly expressive statements; she prefers to let her effort do the talking.
Svetlic is the most recent recipient of the Brock Olivo Award, which recognizes one male and one female Missouri athlete from the Kansas City area who embodies hard work. She is the first tennis player to win the award.
Svetlic’s hard work shows in her attitude as a tennis player, athlete and student.
“Every day I try as hard as I can to improve and get better,” Svetlic said. “Whether it’s in the weight room or on the court, I’m constantly trying to improve.”
Svetlic was nominated for the award by her coach, Blake Starkey. He said he believed the award was appropriate for Svetlic, describing her as a “blue collar worker” who “likes to outlast (opponents) physically.”
Mark Vickery, president of the Tiger Club of Kansas City who presented the award, said that “(Svetlic) was an easy choice for us. She’s performed well on the court as well as in the classroom and we were proud to present her with this award.”
But exemplifying hard work and being awarded for it is not just a personal achievement for Svetlic. As the only senior on the team, she believes she has a responsibility to be a good example for her younger teammates. For her, that means not only demonstrating hard work in practice and in team workouts, but also in terms of promptness, respect and balancing tennis with academics. Her many years at Missouri have taught her these skills that she now hopes to pass on to her teammates.
For example, Svetlic was usually paired with a senior for doubles matches in her earlier years on the tennis team, Svetlic is now paired with freshman Mallory Weber, an experience that has allowed her to serve as a mentor in addition to improving her own game.
Doubles matches have always been Svetlic’s favorite part of the game because they rely more on intelligence and allow both players to motivate each other. She believes it is not age and experience, but complimentary skills that make a good doubles pair.
“It’s based on personalities and a person’s specific strengths and how each player’s strengths work together,” she said.
The age gap, however, can feel large at times. Because everything about college life is more exciting and new to Svetlic’s younger teammates and she is more focused on looking past graduation, age can create a slight barrier. But Svetlic understands that.
“We’re just at two different points in our lives,” Svetlic said. “But I was there once too.”
She said that while the team dynamic is younger, its attitude is still mature and positive.
“All these girls work really hard in practice and we all care about each other,” she said.
While being in season has momentarily kept her from actively pursuing any post-graduation plans, Svetlic, a nutriion and fitness major, knows that the skills like discipline, leadership and communication that she has obtained at Missouri as a student athlete will be of value to her down the road.
“Tennis has set up the foundation for me in anything I choose to do,” she said.
Of equal importance to Svetlic are her parents, who joined her during the award presentation last week, something that Svetlic says she was glad to share with them because they are her biggest supporters.
“My parents, they have been the ones who have always told me and shown me that hard work pays off,” she said. “They’ve always driven it home for me that anything is possible with hard work.”
As the tennis team’s schedule gets more difficult and her window time at MU grows smaller, Svetlic hopes her efforts will contribute to a team that she is confident will be successful, and that she will continue to serve as a role model for what hard work can accomplish.