Jake Beasley’s decision to come back to South Carolina for a fifth year to play tennis proved to be the right choice in so many ways. It wasn’t about trying to get himself to the next level of tennis, but it did help his team to a historic season while also furthering his education and life skills off the court.
“When Covid happened (in 2020), it cut our season short and provided the opportunity to have a fifth year,” said Beasley, who already earned his degree in exercise science and completed his first year of master’s work in the same field. “The master’s program in exercise science at South Carolina is one of the best in the country. That was a big incentive for me to stay, but also to try to lead this team to better things. We’ve grown every year that I’ve been here. I thought this team could do something special this year.
“Setting myself up for future success was also a big part of it. The biggest thing that Coach (Josh) Goffi has done with that is giving us the opportunity to become organized, responsible people, and making sure we take care of what we can control. Setting routines for ourselves and making sure we are doing all the right things off the court allows us to be focused and intense on the court, but it also sets you up to have a successful career and relationships in general. That has become even more imperative as I prepare to go into the next phase of my life.”
Beasley wasn’t wrong about South Carolina having a special year. The Gamecocks have hit several big milestones this year, including reaching the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year while entering the postseason ranked No. 8 nationally. South Carolina has posted nine wins over top-25 opponents and earned the program’s highest ever national ranking at No. 2.
“We had a few big firsts this year,” Beasley said. “We reached No. 2 in the country. We had our first ever win at Texas A&M. We had a doubles team ranked No. 1. It was definitely worthwhile to come back and be a part of that success.”
“It’s great that I’ve been able to leave a little mark on the program.”
With his doubles victory in last weekend’s second round of the NCAA Tournament over Florida State, Beasley is now South Carolina’s career record holder with 92 individual doubles wins.
“It’s a huge honor because we’ve had some great guys come through here in the past,” Beasley said. “I know there are other guys who are probably not far behind me that will have a chance to do the same thing. It’s great that I’ve been able to leave a little mark on the program.”
For many student-athletes, playing professionally in their sport is a top goal, and while Beasley would have liked that opportunity, it’s not what drove him to come back and play as interests in other careers related to his studies grabbed his attention.
“I’ve thought about it (pro tennis), but I didn’t want to get into the lifestyle of being on the road 24/7,” said Beasley, who also enjoys playing chess and golf with his teammates. “I think at one point I thought about trying to do that, but playing for so long, having some injuries, and seeing my friends go out and try to play, I just don’t know that I want to do all of that traveling. I’m ready to move on and do other things.
“I worked in a biomechanics lab during my senior year, and I enjoyed that. Going into the physical training and strength side of it is also something I think I would enjoy. I do have one more year of school, so I will use that year to explore a little bit more. I should be working in the sports science lab here next year. That should help me figure out what I want to do. I really enjoy studying exercise science stuff.”
As the Gamecocks prepare for the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament this weekend in Knoxville, Beasley is confident about being prepared for life after tennis.
“It has definitely prepared me well to deal with the new upcoming things that I’ve never had to experience,” Beasley said. “My favorite part about being part of this program is the team. We’re probably the closest-knit team that I’ve ever seen. We’ve lived together and down the hall from each other every year.
“If I had to give my younger self advice, it would be to look at things that are hard as a way to get better. Look for those moments because those are the most memorable. When you’re alongside people you are closest to, and people you love the most, it might feel hard, but it’s worth it. The way you respond to those moments is how you will be remembered and perceived.”