Making the transition from high school to college can be tough. Making the transition from being a high school athlete to a college athlete is even tougher. Making that transition more than 5,000 miles away from home while speaking a different language can seem flat-out impossible.
But tennis player Soren Hess-Olesen hasn’t let those challenges, or the notorious Texas heat, affect his performance out on the courts in his first fall season in burnt orange.
Hess-Olesen was recruited out of Aarhus, the second-largest city and principle port of Denmark, by head coach Michael Center to join the Longhorns. Hess-Olesen’s recruitment started with an email sent by his father to Center about his son’s skills as a player.
As it turned out, associate head coach Ricardo Rubio knew Hess-Olesen’s coach, and after some reseach Center decided to fly to Denmark to see Hess-Olesen play in the Danish National Indoor Championships. Center liked what he saw and offered Hess-Olesen a scholarship.
“He’s a very good competitor,” said Center. “I felt like he would be a guy that would come in and be a very good player for us right away and continue to develop during his time here.”
For Hess-Olesen, the decision to travel 5,000 miles to Austin to play tennis wasn’t a difficult one.
“I hadn’t seen this place before, but I knew it was a good team with a tradition in sports and tennis,” Hess-Olesen said. “[From] the things [coach Center] told me about it, I just got excited by hearing that, so I never really doubted where I wanted to go.”
Tennis came to Hess-Olesen at an early age in life. His father used to play the sport and passed it down to Hess-Olesen and his brothers.
“When we went on vacations with my family, we just played a bit just for the fun of it,” Hess-Olesen said. “Then my older brother started to play. Then my twin brother and I started to play just one or two years after my older brother.”
He started playing competitively when he was 10 years old but split his time between tennis and soccer until he decided to focus solely on tennis at the age of 15. The decision paid off, as he quickly became one of the top players in Denmark and played with the Danish national team, which toured throughout Europe.
“When I was a sophomore, I started thinking about going to college to play tennis,” Hess-Olesen said. “For me, I had two choices: I could try and play full time in Denmark or go [to UT].”
Realizing that turning professional wasn’t the most viable option, Hess-Olesen started looking at the college route.
“Coach Center came to Denmark to watch me play and convince me to choose Texas, so I chose Texas,” he said. “I know if I want to be a better tennis player, this was the best choice I could make.”
While Hess-Olesen doesn’t think the move to Austin from Denmark gave him much of a culture shock, he does admit that there’s a difference in the competition he faces here.
“It’s really about the mental game,” he said. “You can lose to anybody here if you’re not mentally prepared because there are so many good players. Every single school has one or two top players, so the competition is so much bigger. It’s a challenge, [but] a good one.”
Hess-Olesen has done pretty well with that challenge so far this season. In four tournaments, he has made it to the finals in two, but perhaps the bigger feat was his run to the quarterfinals in the ITA All-American Championships, one of three championship tournaments on the collegiate tennis circuit.
After getting his career as a Longhorn off to a strong start, Hess-Olesen is ready to continue building on that success.
“I’m looking forward to the spring, to start competing against other schools,” Hess-Olesen said. “I hope we can win the Big 12 conference title because I know that’s a very prestigious thing.”
Published on Thursday, November 10, 2011 as: Hess-Olesen adjusts to UT after leaving native land