Defying the expectations


Kate Walkup

Young practicing with his racket.

Kate Walkup, Sports Editor

Graduation is right around the corner for the majority of Matous Young’s peers, but he still has three more years of college to complete.

The Linfield tennis player from San Anselmo, Calif., graduated high school in spring of 2018, but the now-21-year-old is just finishing his freshman year of college. 

“I had average grades in high school,” Young said. “I didn’t put in enough effort to really excel, but I had good enough grades to go to some schools. The only college I applied to was Sonoma State. My mom really wanted me to go there, and I was really good friends with the tennis coach at the time. He blatantly told me, ‘You can’t play tennis here, you’re not good enough.’”

Young at practice. (Kate Walkup)

At the time, Sonoma State’s tennis team was a Division II program, but shortly after Young was told he wasn’t good enough to play for them, the school cut the tennis program. While hearing that he wasn’t skilled enough to make Sonoma State’s tennis team at first disappointed Young, he soon became grateful that he was turned down since the program later folded. 

“I went to Sonoma State for a semester, and for whatever reason, I was unhappy with it,” Young said. “I ended up leaving and went to a community college in Santa Cruz called Cabrillo in the spring of 2019.”

During his time in Santa Cruz, Young felt the lack of motivation he had felt in high school kick back in, even though he was playing tennis again and had given himself a busy schedule in the hopes of staying on task. However, the lifestyle that was so similar to what he had been used to in high school failed Young once more.  

“I was given an opportunity to play tennis for the community college team,” Young said. “I had the hopes of getting good enough grades and playing and learning that student-athlete discipline lifestyle, which I’ve always been attracted to.” 

While Young strived to be that person who puts equal amounts of determination and focus into their studies and sport, he felt like he could never achieve that balance. Going to school right by the beach meant long afternoon surf sessions instead of study sessions for Young.

Young hitting a tennis ball. (Kate Walkup)

“The discipline part was never there—ever,” Young said. “I failed all my classes miserably. I was working full-time and basically living out of a closet right on the beach. It was beautiful.”

Growing up with a dad who had played tennis collegiately and a mom who worked as a physical therapist, Young’s athletics and academics meant a lot to them. After they found out he’d failed his classes, Young’s parents wanted him to come back home so that they could make sure he succeeded in both his classes and his tennis. 

So Young enrolled in College of Marin near his home in San Anselmo in fall of 2019. But once Covid hit the next spring, Young withdrew from all of his classes because online education was simply not working for him. After taking the semester off, Young decided to put his mind to it and tackle the classes he had withdrawn from previously and finally found some success in school during the 2020-21 academic year. 

He passed all of his classes.

While tennis had taken a bit of a backseat during Covid, Young was still determined to continue with the sport he’d played since he was 3—he didn’t know his identity without it. Young was up for a challenge, and he was soon presented with one. 

“I actually came up to Linfield on a recruiting trip in the fall of 2019,” Young said. “I got to meet the team, and I was planning to transfer. And then I was like, ‘I’m not coming up here during Covid.’ I didn’t want to go to school. 2021 rolled around, and then I finally made the decision to come up here in the fall.” 

Starting at Linfield as a freshman in the fall of 2021, Young felt wary about entering a four-year university with the vast majority of freshmen being three years younger than him. He worried that he would feel out of place and wouldn’t fit in.

Young through the net. (Kate Walkup)

However, the tennis program at Linfield had a unique dynamic this year. The 2021 graduating class had made up the majority of the team, making Young—a freshman and newcomer— the oldest member of the 2021-22 team.

“At first it came down to age,” Young said. “Of course, me being the oldest, I wanted to be a leading force on the team, but I didn’t know how.” 

Although Young was only a freshman academically, he felt like he was supposed to be the leader since he was the oldest age-wise. But stepping into that role didn’t come naturally to Young despite his extroverted presence on the court. 

“My doubles partner, Rogue Stone, who just turned 19, is like my guiding force,” Young said. “I look up to him all the time. He’s an amazing, beautiful tennis player and super disciplined. He trains like an animal, and I feel like I go to him for questions and answers—I trust him more than anybody.”

The experience Young has been presented at Linfield wasn’t the college experience he’d anticipated, but he wouldn’t change it for anything. Being older than his classmates and teammates seemed intimidating at first, but the situation has taught Young that age isn’t everything.

Linfield freshman Matous Young. (Kate Walkup)

“I still haven’t really learned that student-athlete discipline at all,” Young said. “I always thought that I would be old enough to figure it out. I put a lot of expectations on myself to be like, ‘You’re this age, or this age, it’s time to figure it out and get a plan for your life,’ and I’ve struggled with that so much because all I’ve ever wanted to do is play tennis.”

Although Young is still in the process of mastering the student-athlete lifestyle, he’s realized that being at a different place academically than his peers has been one of the best things for him. Through the process of finding his rhythm with college, Young has discovered a new confidence within himself, bringing his own flair, personality and life experience to both the classroom and tennis court.