Jake Magill waits for coronavirus restrictions to ease so he can start his US college tennis scholarship

WAITING GAME: Rising tennis star from Bogan Gate Jake Magill is still waiting for his visa and permission to leave the country to study and play in the US, but he's hoping to get over there as soon as he can. Photo: Christine Little
WAITING GAME: Rising tennis star from Bogan Gate Jake Magill is still waiting for his visa and permission to leave the country to study and play in the US, but he's hoping to get over there as soon as he can. Photo: Christine Little

Jake Magill has seized an opportunity not too many young tennis players from country NSW have - to study in the USA and play a sport he loves.

And the only thing standing in his way is the coronavirus pandemic.

Magill has been offered a four-year tennis scholarship to the University of Charleston in West Virginia.

The 18-year-old - who lives on the family farm with mum and dad Alison and Tony near Bogan Gate and completed his HSC at Parkes High School - is expected to start his classes on August 24 but because of the pandemic, there's been a delay in his visa application.

"They are very flexible, they said whenever I can get my visa, I can start then," he said.

"At least I am able to do my classes online in the meantime."

With the assistance of Study and Play USA, a Brisbane-based company Magill met at a tournament last April, he has set up his profile, prepared his resume with references from coaches, submitted a video of him playing along with results from past matches and has been given a GPA (Grade Point Average, what America uses for college entry similar to Australia's ATAR).

Colleges also look at a player's Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) to compare them with others around the world.

"The company sends it all away to different colleges - the day they sent it I actually received an email from a college the next morning," Magill said.

In total Magill had six college offers within two months.

"I was excited, then I was like 'what do I do now?'" He laughed.

"In the end I narrowed it down based on what they were offering, the scholarship offers were a lot better at Charleston.

"This one was always at the top for a while."

His scholarship covers 60 per cent of his funds.

"I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't have a scholarship," he said.

"I sign a yearly contract but I'll be over there for four years.

"I'm going to do a major in sport business.

"I'm pretty much over there for the tennis, the degree is on the side, but I wanted to pick something that gave me a few options when I come back."

Magill has been wanting to play college tennis since his month-long development tour in the US in June 2017 with two other Parkes teenagers, Parkes head coach Helen Magill and other players from Margaret Court Tennis Academy in Albury-Wodonga.

"While we were over there we visited a college, we had a tour with the tennis coach at the time at the University of Nevada in Reno and we trained there too," Magill said.

"That sparked an interest for me, it looked like a good opportunity.

"The head coach of the Margaret Court Tennis Academy Phil Shanahan is a big supporter of the college pathway."

The main competitive season for college tennis begins in January.

"They play smaller regional tournaments but there is also a national championship which I'm aiming to play in," Magill said.

And he believes his college might have a chance at making the final too.

"The coach at the college told me this is the best recruitment since he's been there, which is like 10 or 15 years," he said.

"I wanted to make sure I wasn't the best player because I want to keep improving.

"I'm looking forward to getting over there and training with the guys that are my level or better than me everyday, only because I don't get that here."

Magill's training usually involves private lessons with Helen at the Parkes Tennis Centre or playing against a ball machine.

"The last three years have been the hardest to keep motivated and get variety in a match," he said.

Magill trains more than seven hours a week on court, on top of going to the gym and on runs.

Since accepting the scholarship, the college has sent him training programs until he is able to get there.

"They want everyone there on the same level," he said.

Now with a UTR of 10.12, initially Magill never liked playing tennis.

"My dad was a handy player and when we were on holidays at Forster, we had been watching the Australian Open and went down for a hit," he said.

"A coach saw me and said I had a lot of natural ability, and asked me to come back the next day for another hit.

"We returned home from holidays and I started playing tennis... I've been playing since I was nine.

"And it progressed very quickly - I was state champion in the under 10s. I was the only country kid in the draw, the rest were all from the city."

Since the pandemic began, Magill has been taking part in a number of UTR events, some of which Parkes has hosted, with another to be held on August 8 and 9.

"It gives me more match-play because there isn't any Australian tournaments at the moment and also to get my rating up," Magill said.

At this stage, Magill is still waiting for his visa and permission to leave the country.

"It's a bit all uncertain, I'm hoping to get over there as soon as I can," he said.

"The pandemic has halted the process."

Magill would like to thank Helen for all her hard work and dedication to his tennis over the years and his parents for all of the travelling to tournaments and training.

"I'd also like to thank the Parkes tennis community and the wider community for all of their support," he said.