Irina Lykina, originally from Kazan, Russia, played lines 1 and 2 for the University of Oklahoma's women's tennis team between 2003-2007. During her time at OU, their team was ranked #15 NCAA Division I. Irina's best NCAA D1 singles ranking was #63 and was named All-Big 12 Women's Tennis Singles Player in Spring 2005, a four-time member of the Academic All-American ITA Team, and four-time Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll member. Before college, during her Juniors tennis career, Irina was ranked in the top 300 in the world and achieved #1 ranking in Russia 16 and under in 2000. Between 2005-2008 Irina was also traveling with and coaching her younger sister, Ksenia Lykina, whose highest junior ITF ranking was #4 in the world during their joint work. Ksenia Lykina became a professional tennis player, achieving a career-high ranking of 171 in singles and 108 in doubles. Irina now works as a CPA but has kept her tennis passion alive, competing at different USTA tournaments and playing invitational tennis exhibitions. During her time in the Cayman Islands for work reasons, Irina won the Cayman Islands Championship in women's doubles in 2016 and mixed doubles in 2014 and 2016.
Key topics discussed in this episode:
Tennis game and mindset: what does it mean to be a tennis player, exploring all aspects of the gameDifferences between being a competitive college tennis player and playing professionallyHow does one choose a college tennis team and the benefits of playing college tennisHow do you find resilience and stay positive through injuries and find the courage to go back to the sport that hurt you in the first place? The mindset and things Irina has learned when playing tennis that helped her excel in her professional careerFear setting: The power of living through the worst-case scenario and how you can use it for growthCreating boundaries and structure during COVID, gratitude, and choosing to focus on things that you can control and that bring you joyTrusting the journey, finding your passion, confidence, purposeSome of my favorite quotes:
"You can't control everything in tennis. You have to react very fast, and adjust, and continue to be challenged."
"In tennis, you can't replay things the same way, every point is a new page, and you don't know how it's gonna go, and that adds challenges to staying fit and injury-free, that element of needing to react."
"That sense of togetherness is something I have not experienced until I got to college and I was 19 years old."
"An advice I would give when people are looking at choosing a college for their college tennis career - find your passion and what inspires you, what do you want to do, and who do you want to do it with."
"Teamwork is absolutely something huge in the work I do, I lead a team of brilliant accounts, and I am only as good as my team, and that is something that college tennis has taught me and really made me value."
"Sports have taught me that: Find what you can do and push hard, don't give up, communicate well, make sure that everyone is aware of the situation and try to enjoy what you do have even when things don't always go as planned."
"It's one of the things that tennis teaches you, and something that you learn is the reality of not performing. If you didn't win, you didn't make money. How are you going to pay for the hotel? How are you going to pay for the flight to travel?"
"How do you find resilience and stay positive through injuries? How do you go back to doing something that hurt you in the first place? By making choices and following your heart."
"Change your life for your knee, or change your knee for the life you want - only you know what the answer is."