CARY, N.C. – Alex Lane’s online bio says that he loves 80s music and hairstyles. It’s supposed to be a joke, a way to give the 25-year-old Claremont McKenna junior a hard time.
Yes, he was born in 1986, and sure, he can listen to Duran Duran or The Cure without snickering. If his coach and teammates want to poke a little good-natured fun at him now and then about his status as a non-traditional NCAA Division III student-athlete, that’s fine. He’s come a long way to get here.
|MORE FROM CARY, N.C.|
|Lane focused more on the books|
|For the love of the game|
|Emory duo gearing up for last hurrah|
Right out of Claremont (Calif.) High School, Lane hit the road to play on the International Tennis Federation Futures and the Association of Tennis Professionals Challengers circuits. There he was, a teenager and in a motel room by himself, trying to find practice partners and hitch a ride to the next tournament. How was he going to get where … and when? It was a constant, non-stop grind.
For two, two-and-a-half years, that was Lane’s life. He moved to Texas, found a new coach and took a gig as a teaching pro in Dallas. That wasn’t for him, either. He had a decision to make. He was going back to school, first at Azusa Pacific before transferring to Claremont McKenna prior to his sophomore season.
“I was getting older,” Lane said matter of factly. “It’s a lot of fun when you’re out there, and there are a lot of guys who are dreamers but very few people who are practical. A lot of guys get sucked into it. They’re 21, and before they know it, they’re 27 and need a job. I didn’t want to be a teaching pro. I did that for a little bit, and it was fun, but I did not want to be on the courts 10 hours a day, camping out and making $15 an hour. So I decided to go back to school and get on with life.”
Majoring in government, school now comes first.
“I had my shot,” Lane continued. “Tennis is fun, and I love doing it. If I was going to be completely dedicated to tennis, I would be out there playing on the road, on the tour again. Now, I’m giving myself a really fair chance at my education.”
Lane feels so strongly about his life at Claremont McKenna, he calls it the greatest achievement of his life. He cruised through high school, and now he’s at one of the best small colleges in the country and doing well.
There is a life outside the tennis court.
“I’m becoming well educated,” Lane said. “I learning about Euros and the financial crisis, what’s going on in Syria, human rights violations in China. There’s so many things that seem more important and more crucial besides tennis. I cherish it. Being a non-traditional student definitely opened my eyes, compared to what I was doing at my old school. It was nothing even close to what we’re doing now at CMC. I have a much greater appreciation for what my school provides.”
At first, his younger teammates didn’t know exactly what to make of Lane because he basically just showed up on campus last spring. There were no official recruiting visits, none of that kind of thing. Now, he doesn’t get a lot of kidding about his age, the bio joke notwithstanding. He respects his teammates and they respect him.
“A lot of guys are vigilantes that sign up and play for their college to keep the tennis dream alive,” he said. “I didn’t want that. I wanted to go to a school that had prospects for me and that I had a future with. The team is different for sure, because most of the kids on this team are as dedicated to tennis as they are the other things they want to do in life.”
Lane once chased a dream from one tournament to the next, and it must seem like a lifetime ago instead of less than a decade. That was one season of his life, and this is another.
“Now, I’m in college,” he concluded. “I’m sitting in a nice hotel. There’s a tournament where there are tons of fans watching. There are parents. There’s just a lot more support. It makes a big difference.”