Burns shares load as tennis career closes
Mon. January 14, 2013 at 5:55 p.m. | By By Robert Demetrious | StarNews Correspondent
Kaitlin Burns has been a starter for the LSU tennis team all four seasons after arriving from Hoggard High School. Photo courtesy LSU Media Relations
Queen of the courts, former Hoggard standout Kaitlin Burns was one of the most highly decorated high school tennis players from Southeastern North Carolina. The two-time Class 4A state singles champion also won a doubles title with the Vikings. Her success made her a five-star recruit, wooed by a number of the top collegiate programs in thecountry.
After trips across the country to visit schools, she chose to attend LSU. Life in the super-intense Southeastern Conference taught her that tennis could consume even more of her life than she first thought.
“I wanted to go to a big sports program,” said Burns. “After my recruiting trip and I had a chance to see the atmosphere and meet the coaches, I knew it was the perfect fit for me.”
Her trip from the beach to the big time took her over some early bumps, however.
“It was definitely overwhelming at first coming from a small town,” said Burns. “It was really different and I was out of my comfort zone. At first it was a huge wake-up call. It is so much more competitive. I really had to work hard to prepare myself.”
Once Burns signed on the dotted line for the Tigers, tennis became her main priority.
“As an athlete, our responsibilities are different,” said Burns. “We sacrifice for the team. Tennis comes before every other aspect of college life. There’s still a good balance, but when spring comes around, the team comes before your own self. I learned that all of your decisions impact the team for better or for worse.”
Burns began her career as the No. 2 player for the Tigers in dual matches and won her first seven matches in fall invitationals. Before LSU, Burns always worried about herself. Following her freshman season, she realized the she would be successful when the team was successful.
“I learned that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it matters how the team finishes,” said Burns. “After my freshman year, I adapted better to that change and it helped me work even harder knowing that seven other people are relying on me to do my part so we could be successful as a whole.”
Now as a senior and still one of the team’s top players, she has embraced her role as team leader as the team aims for a championship in a powerful SEC. The Tigers are ranked No. 45 in the country by the ITA – but only 10th in the conference. With a new coach, the Tigers hope to climb that ladder.
“Our team has never been in such good shape or played at such a high level of tennis,” said Burns. “I think that it has given us the confidence to believe that we can and will compete for the SEC title and go far in NCAAs.”
Following her career at LSU, Burns will have options, ranging from competing as a professional tennis player or continuing her education. If she chooses to walk away, she realizes it will be bitter-sweet.
But the former Viking is prepared to turn the page and start a new chapter. That is, after she goes one more round with the SEC.
“My life has revolved around tennis and to just stop that after college will be hard,” said Burns. “But playing for LSU has taught me a high level of work ethic and commitment that I think will translate over to whatever career I decide to have after tennis.”