Often top athletes begin playing their sport at a very young age. For TU student-athlete Kody Pearson, he began at age 3, but it seemed predestined from birth that he would take up tennis.
“We say it jokingly that I was born with a tennis racquet in my hand,” Pearson said.
“My grandparents owned the largest tennis and squash facility in Australia, and my parents were running the facility at the time,” said the senior from Sydney, Australia. His mother, Christine, was a midwife who enlisted two other midwives to assist her for Kody’s birth. “Our house was connected to the facility, so I was a home birth that happened right there.”
From that moment, it seemed clear that either squash or tennis would be the sport of preference for Pearson.
“I played both growing up, but I always gravitated more to tennis,” he remembered.
Balancing education and aspirations
Pearson is in his fifth year on the Golden Hurricane tennis roster, the extra season thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was named the 2022 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and had a strong start to the 2023 campaign beginning with an 11-1 record.
Unranked to start the season, Pearson has been ranked as high as 28th individually in the ITA National Rankings. Five of his 11 victories have come against the top 75 players in the country, including a 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (2) win over Ryan Seggeman of North Carolina, No. 9 in the nation.
“The season has been going well for me individually. I’ve been playing some of my best tennis since I’ve been here at TU,” Pearson said.
With aspirations of playing professionally, Pearson took a sabbatical of sorts during the fall. He had a choice to make after last season – take four classes in the fall and one in the spring or spend the fall season playing professionally in Europe and return to complete his collegiate career with five classes this spring. He chose what would seem like a learning abroad semester.
Pearson spent the fall based in Dusseldorf, Germany.
“I traveled throughout Europe – Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Morocco as well as New Zealand – playing in professional tournaments. It was a great experience to expose myself to the week-in, week-out grind of playing that kind of schedule,” Pearson said.
A psychology major with minors in coaching and health sciences, Pearson used his semester away from TU as another type of learning experience.
“We don’t realize how lucky we have it as a college athlete. Our travel is all taken care of, our accommodations are taken care of, our food is all taken care of. There’s way more to worry about when you’re on your own. It was so good to expose myself to that and know what I’m getting into at the next level,” he said.
Pearson was also able to improve his world ranking to No. 919, but now his focus has turned back to finishing classes, earning his degree and helping his team return to the NCAA Team Championship. The Golden Hurricane lost a first-round match a year ago, but with Pearson leading the way, TU hopes to add its 20th trip in the last 28 years to the national tournament.
The journey continues
Pearson will also be looking to make his third consecutive trip to the NCAA Singles Championship. Through the midway point of the current season, Pearson has posted a career 72-39 singles mark and 58-34 doubles record, a mark he has mostly teamed up with fellow Australian Connor DiMarco to compile.
“Tulsa was a great fit for me. It’s not a massive school population-wise so you don’t get lost in the college system. TU presented a great opportunity for me to stand out and flourish.”
Flourish is exactly what Pearson has done. He has made the most of his opportunity at Tulsa, both on the court and in the classroom, and will undoubtedly be prepared for whatever the next chapter of his life brings.
Be sure to visit tulsahurricane.com/sports/mens-tennis to learn more about the team and when you can catch the next match! Reign Cane!