Clarksville, Ark.-University of the Ozarks senior tennis player Brandon Carlson has achieved the team's No. 1 singles position and excelled off the court by using what his coach describes as a ‘blue-collar' work ethic.
Carlson, a native of Grapevine, Texas, has spent the entire season facing off against the top players in the competitive American Southwest Conference, a league that has three teams regionally ranked within Ozarks’ division. Carlson has posted back-to-back singles wins and doubles wins for the Eagles, including a 6-0, 6-3 singles victory against Louisiana College March 13.
“I like to describe Brandon as a blue-collar type guy,” said head tennis coach Shaun Wiseman. “He seems like someone who should play tennis in Pittsburgh. There is an element of that I will really miss when he is gone. No one is more dependable. He is consistent in his level of play and that is one of the biggest reasons why he plays No. 1 for us.”
Carlson’s drive and dedication are evident in his accomplishments in the classroom, too. He has been a member of the President’s List, Dean’s List and the ASC All-Academic Team during his time at Ozarks.
He will graduate in May with a degree in history and social science and is just one of 15 students to have been accepted into the Higher Education Administration master’s program at Texas A&M.
“I think his academic record speaks for itself,” said Wiseman. “He is not only one of the best students on campus, but he is also one of the most active students on campus. He has a passion for life. He puts his heart into everything he does. I think he categorically gives 100 percent to everything he pursues and that is a rare quality to find in someone his age. His time management skills are impeccable, and he is very organized. It is impressive he can accomplish everything.”
Carlson is a student of the game, too. Wiseman believes his No. 1 player is among the best tacticians he has seen in person.
“He is a thinker on the court,” said Wiseman. “He will not overpower you or out run you. He will out work you and out think you. There is more going on in his mind during a point than 90 percent of the people I have seen play. That is probably what made him attractive to a lot of Division I schools. He can set up a point and play a point better than most. That is his strength. He is good enough to be able to put his plan into action.”
Carlson landed at Ozarks after University of Colorado-Colorado Springs suspended its tennis program. Carlson, who had also been offered a tennis scholarship at Texas Christian University, had been recruited by Ozarks, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to attend a small school.
“I had applied to Ozarks when the coaching staff recruited me,” said Carlson. “I thought it was a little too small for me. I really wanted to go to a larger school. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give Ozarks a shot. I thought I could attend Ozarks for a year and then transfer somewhere else, but I don’t have any regrets staying. I will fondly look back on the time I had playing here.”
Carlson’s other tennis experiences include touring with the John Newcombe Academy. In 2005, he traveled oversees for four weeks playing in England and Scotland.
“I played on seven different court surfaces,” said Carlson. “I was able to attend Wimbledon and be two rows up at center court and watch Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova. It was an awesome experience.”
In addition to his role as team co-Captain, Carlson is a campus Assistant Resident Director, President of the Campus Activities Board and a member of Phi Beta Lambda.
“It is tough to balance everything,” said Carlson. “I just try to stay organized. Time management is the best thing that I have to offer. To be a student-athlete, there are certain things we must possess that people from the outside looking in really can’t understand. There is a certain sense of dedication and hard work that an athlete must have. I think that those type of attributes translate into the professional world.”
Carlson believes the tennis program will continue to improve under the leadership of Wiseman. Carlson credits his head coach for helping the team make strides in just a short time.
“Coach Wiseman has been great,” said Carlson. “He is a great addition to the program. He is so passionate about developing the program at Ozarks. In the two years that he has been here, I’ve seen his drive to be successful. The team notices and appreciates that.”
Carlson, who plans to eventually work in college level administration, is quick to admit he has a passion for helping others learn.
“My favorite aspect of teaching is seeing the progress a student makes,” said Carlson. “It is satisfying to see them connect to the game of tennis and develop a passion for it. I wanted to start coaching more, so, I received my USTA certification and I have been able to coach over the summers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It has really been something that I love doing.”
Carlson feels Ozarks has prepared him with the education and experiences he’ll need after graduation.
“Ozarks has been awesome,” said Carlson. “It always comes back to the idea that Ozarks is all about the people. This school will bend over backwards to make sure you have the best experience every time. When I applied to graduate school, I never felt at any point that I was inferior to students from larger schools. The professors are willing to go the extra mile to see that the student is getting the best opportunity they can here.”