No other BYU team embodies the university motto “The World is Our Campus” more literally than the men’s tennis team.
Picture a roster of 10 players drawn from five different nations. These players have flocked to Provo from Russia, Mexico, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom. This melting pot of languages and cultures has created a unique chemistry for the Cougars.
“We’re all from different places,” said sophomore Aidan Carrazedo, a native of South Africa. “We speak different languages and are from different cultures, but we all get on together and we have each other’s backs. We’re all brothers.”
Language and culture are not barriers for this BYU team. Their ability to work together and learn from one another has been one of the best outcomes of casting an international net while recruiting tennis talent.
“They learn to embrace each other’s backgrounds and cultures,” BYU coach Brad Pearce said. “That’s something that’s good for them and will help them as they assimilate into a work environment where there’s a lot of diversity. That’s a real positive aspect of having a multicultural type team.”
Drawing from an international recruiting pool has also traditionally infused a ton of talent into the Cougar program.
BYU has struggled in 2015 with a team of mostly freshmen and sophomores and only one senior. Before this spring, however, the Cougars enjoyed a string of 16 consecutive seasons with a final Top 75 ranking — finishing as high as 36th nationally in 2010 and 2011. The Cougars also finished No. 1 in the Mountain Region in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Such consistent success means a great deal to players who are accustomed to playing at a high level in their own countries and internationally before coming to BYU.
“When I was getting recruited, they were Top-30,” said sophomore Juan Canales, a native of Mexico. “That was a pretty big deal. My friends were like, ‘Whoa, you’re going to a Division I school in the Top 30 in the country. That’s pretty big.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s good. I’m going to learn so much over there.’”
When Carrazedo started the recruiting process, he focused making contact with Top 75 programs — sending out emails to schools that fit into that category. That put BYU on his radar and opened the door for coaches to fly out to South Africa and watch him play.
BYU soon offered a scholarship and Carrazedo accepted. He hasn’t looked back since.
“I was really excited about the program,” Carrazedo said. “I liked everything BYU stood for and I was just happy to come here.”
Pearce’s own tennis experiences have made a difference for the Cougars in luring top tennis talent to Provo. Before taking over the BYU men’s tennis program, Pearce enjoyed a successful pro tennis career. He reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals in singles in 1990 and was a Top-100 singles player and Top 25 doubles player during his playing career.
“It made my decision easier because I knew he had been at the top level,” Carrazedo said. “That’s where all of us on the team want to be at one day is playing at the pro level. He’s been there and done that, so he can help us achieve those goals.”
Pearce acknowledges his tennis experience opens doors in some places. It has also given him an eye for what it takes to build a competitive tennis program.
It starts with going all over the world to find the best players instead of simply staying home.
“Tennis is certainly a worldwide sport,” Pearce said. “We’ve been able to draw upon that to help further advance our program.”
Many of the men’s tennis athletes are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or even familiar with the LDS Church when they come to Provo. It has not stopped them from identifying with the religious aspect of the school’s mission.
Regardless of their individual backgrounds, they take seriously how the rest of the world sees them when they take the court for the Cougars.
“When we go out, we need to represent BYU like how it is,” Canales said. “Even though we are not members — some of us — people see us as part of the LDS Church and the University. Everything is so special and it’s such a great privilege to be representing such a good school.”