Clarisa Colling has been playing tennis for most of her life and says countless hours on the court with her sisters at a young age brought her to where she is now — a powerhouse of competitiveness, finesse and flare.
The Orange Coast College female athlete of the year last season, Colling has continued her dominance this year, having won the OCC women’s tennis program’s ninth state championship just last week.
These achievements give Colling air to be flamboyant, maybe even cocky. Remarkably, that is far from Colling’s style of play, and what women’s tennis head coach Chris Ketcham witnesses on the court.
“She [Colling] has a great work ethic and I think that rubs off on a lot of the other girls,” Ketcham said. “She leads by example. She may not be someone that is vocally leading, but they see how hard she works and how much she puts into it.”
“Obviously, the results speak for themselves,” Ketcham continued.
Accolades have flooded Colling’s OCC tennis career. She has only lost four times in two years, having played in well over 50 matches. She also won the Orange Empire Conference tennis player of the year in 2016.
Tennis has played a part in virtually every aspect of Colling’s life, starting from adolescence. She found her initial love for the game when she and her father went out to hit after finding a few dusty rackets in storage.
That newfound love turned into an intense and grueling set of circumstances. She started participating in elite tennis tournaments around the age of 13, and the heavy schedule that ensued led her to the brink of calling it quits.
“I started out loving it [tennis] as a kid,” Colling said. “Then I was starting to play competitively and it got really hard. There were multiple times where I wanted to quit, but my dad kept me on track.”
Aspiring young athletes often make huge sacrifices catering to the intensity of their respective sport. Some athletes' social, developmental and even scholastic characteristics are called into question.
Colling, while admitting that tennis can be a lonely sport, is now reaping the benefits of her years of hard work and recognizes the rewards of flying solo for much of her career.
“You need to put in the work every day, and it gets repetitive, boring and hard. I feel like that’s life too,” Colling said. “It [tennis] taught me a lot about how to fight for myself and keep grinding. It made me strong.”
Physical strength has helped her persevere through an injury to her wrist that has surfaced throughout this season. And mental strength has given her the ability to rebound when she finds herself struggling.
Colling, with her intensity and presence on the court, is often more effective as an example to her teammates and opposing players, rather than displaying her skill.
“Her demeanor on the court is so good. It’s good for her teammates to see how much she is into it and how much she wants it, and hopefully they can get something out of that,” Ketcham said.
Colling mentors youth tennis players at the Matchpoint Tennis Academy in Santa Ana, providing hopeful tennis players her advice on how to manage and maintain consistent performances.
Outside of tennis, Colling likes to spend time with friends and family, while sometimes taking up her love for writing.
I like to take time for myself. I’m always busy with tennis and school,” Colling said. “When I do have free time, I just like to relax and be by myself, or hang out with friends and family.”
Colling embodies the excellence that can be achieved through persistent hard work and being truthful to her teammates and the people around her.
Her relationship with tennis is honest and constantly evolving. She recognizes her quality as a tennis player, and hopes to play at a Div. 1 university in the coming years.
“She’s good at thinking out there,” Ketcham said. “Just a smart player that’s a winner. She is a winner.”