March 12, 2014
By Matt Bontorin, MSU Athletic Communications Student AssistantFor Spartan senior Christina Brown, being a tennis player is important but being a student-athlete is what defines her.
When making her college decision, it was more about what the school had to offer academically and less about the tennis program. Brown, who was a county MVP and team captain at Cousino High School in Warren, Mich., made the tough decision to put athletics on hold while pursuing a double major in genomics and molecular genetics.
"I knew I wanted to go to medical school and I knew Michigan State would be a great way to get there," Brown said. "My choice was all about academics."
The summer before Brown's freshman year at Michigan State she admitted to still having a desire to compete on the tennis court. She made a deal with a friend that she would try out for MSU's club tennis team when she arrived on campus in the fall of 2010. The club team promised to be less involved and less time-consuming than the varsity team, which would allow her to keep up in school while still playing the game she loved.
Brown made the team and competed for two years at the club level. It was clear from the way she overwhelmed her opponents that she was capable of competing at the varsity level.
In the summer between Brown's sophomore and junior, year women's varsity head coach Simone Jardim approached her regarding a possible jump to her team.
"She was one of the girls that could play at a higher level and stepped up when the opportunity came," Jardim said.
Despite her heavy workload, Brown couldn't pass up an opportunity to be a Division 1 tennis player.
"The club team was more of a fun and social atmosphere," Brown said. "The varsity team is a lot more involved. The training is more vigorous and the competition is at a higher level. It was a lot more of a commitment, but it was something I wanted to do."
Brown accepted a walk-on spot as a junior and won her first match on Oct. 5, 2012, at the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invite in East Lansing. She defeated Natalie Handler of Xavier University in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.
Despite what looked like an effortless transition, Brown acknowledged making the jump from the club team to the varsity team wasn't easy.
"It was tough at first to keep up with the cardio and training," Brown said. "Being a varsity player is a lot more physically demanding."
Brown also needed to make sure she was keeping up with school.
"Having good time management skills is really important," Brown said. "Taking advantage of the tutors MSU offers is important as well. I make sure I get help in any of the classes I'm struggling with."
With her senior year winding down, Brown has been working hard toward her application to medical school.
"I need to study for my MCAT on top of studying for all my classes and tennis," Brown said. "It's always tough trying to get enough sleep."
Brown's goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon is still very much in line. With her outstanding grades and strong extracurricular resume she has put herself in an exceptional position.
"When she is applying for medical school they will have more consideration for her because she is a varsity student-athlete," Jardim said. "Her grades are high, but what will put her over the top is her commitment to this team."
With the uncertainty of whether she will continue her education at MSU, Brown reflected on what she would miss most about East Lansing.
"I'm really going to miss the college atmosphere," Brown said. "I am going to miss being around this team as well. The constant workouts keep you in top shape so I'm going to have to push myself to continue to stay fit."
Brown's commitment to her personal goals on and off the court have never deterred her from being a great teammate.
"She's a great kid and has been a great team player," Jardim said. "She has gone through a lot to get to where she is now. She is a great representative of Michigan State."