Moving quickly// Senior Rachel Benoualid hits the ball back to her opponent’s side of the court, with a look of concentration and determination. She goes on to win the point. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Benoualid).
Rachel Benoualid: a force on and off the court
by Hridi Bhakta
Student-athletes hold a lot of responsibility as they juggle academics and their sport. Playing a sport can be very time consuming–from practices to games and matches. In order to maintain a balanced lifestyle between academics and sports, it’s key that they hold immense passion for everything they do. Rachel Benoualid has a certain devotion and love for the sport of tennis and her academics that is simply empowering.
“Tennis has made me who I am today,” senior Rachel Benoualid said. “It quickly taught me how to deal with people, how to have good sportsmanship, and how to stay mentally, physically, and emotionally strong. I love the competitiveness of the tournaments. I also love traveling for tournaments because I get to experience different environments and cultures. I love to explore whenever I have free time during tournaments as well. I will usually find a hike, and ask locals for the best restaurants.”
Tournaments aren’t always fun, however. One of the biggest stress factors when competing in tournaments is trying to catch the attention of college coaches. Benoualid also has to keep a high enough ranking to get into major tournaments. Currently, she’s ranked in the top 10 in Nevada and top 350 in the US. There’s a lot of pressure to win and keep that winning streak going. Most of her tennis tournaments occur over the weekend, which leaves very little time to get schoolwork done. Despite this, Rachel still finds time to rejoice in her senior year.
“I am really enjoying it [senior year],” Benoualid said. “It’s weird because I know that these are my last high school experiences, so I am trying to enjoy all the little moments and times with my friends before we leave for college.”
Aside from hanging out with friends, Rachel enjoys watching TV, reading, doing arts and crafts, and eating. However taking pleasure in her pastimes can be difficult, especially with such a time-consuming sport and the difficult course load Benoualid has taken on.
“This year I am taking 5 AP classes, which are Physics one, Calculus AB, Psychology, Government, and Literature,” Benoualid said. “It is really draining having to start all my homework and assignments after practice and dinner at 8 p.m. Any free time I have during school is spent working on stuff for other classes to free up time for all my other stuff. I am also really lucky to have amazing people surrounding and supporting me in everything I do.”
In terms of her academic studies, in the future, Rachel hopes to study biology or chemistry in college. The most important thing that keeps her going is the people around her. Having an amazing support system is the backbone of any athlete. Someone that Rachel looks up to is her grandma, who is one of her biggest supporters.
“My grandma, Helen Benoualid, inspires me,” Benoualid said. “ She started playing tennis by hitting a ball against a wall near her house with a tennis racquet she found in her garage. A couple of years ago she injured her knee playing tennis and isn’t really able to play anymore. I know how much she loves and misses the sport, so I play for her and everyone else incapable of playing a sport or having the chance to experience something like tennis. She is the most generous person I know and she has the most optimistic philosophical outlook on life.”
Similar to her grandma, Rachel Benoualid is a very kind person. A member of an organization called Friendship Circle, Rachel takes part in a program that fosters friendships between people and kids with special needs.
“They hold really fun events where you get together with your special needs buddy to bake, rollerskate, play basketball, do arts and crafts, and more,” Benoualid said. “I have had the immense pleasure of hanging out and getting to know a kid. He is the sweetest and gives the best hugs of all time. I love that the organization gave me an opportunity to meet him and so many others who are so deserving of love and amazing friends.”
Besides her love and commitment to tennis, Rachel’s devotion to her family and studies is also admirable. Not only does she care about herself but equally cares for others, too. As she starts to prepare her college plans, Rachel’s dedication will pave the way, not only for herself, but for her peers.