When Aaron Osmond first carried a tennis racquet onto the court he could barely see over the net but today he is playing on the highly competitive US collegiate circuit, while studying at the Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
Not knowing what lies ahead for him in tennis, Aaron has shored up his future by taking on a degree in kinesiology and education so that he can become a PE teacher, which he says “was probably something I just stumbled into”.
“I always enjoyed coaching and being a mentor to younger people and had a great relationship with my PE teachers at school, so I thought it would be a good way to give a little bit back,” Aaron said.
The son of Annette and Mick Osmond, Aaron was born in Gunnedah 19 years ago, and with his mother (formerly Birchall) a prominent player in her era of competitive tennis, it seemed a natural fit for the youngster to play the game.
Aaron began his education at Gunnedah South Public School and then attended St Mary’s College.
“My interests were just playing sport and hanging out with mates but tennis was always the main sport I was involved with and always loved – I definitely got that from my family who were all involved in tennis.”
“In Year 11 at St Mary’s College I was the Lourdes House Captain and in my final year I had the privilege of being the School Captain,” Aaron said.
“I was never very academically gifted at school so I didn’t achieve any academic awards but I did manage to get a few sporting awards, including St Mary’s sporting Blues, the award for Most Outstanding Sporting Achievement, St Mary’s College Blue Ribbon Award and the Olympic Change Maker Award.”
With his chosen career path a little different to everyone else, Aaron sought assistance from a company called Study Play USA, run by Chris and Alexa Bates, who helped him with everything involved in getting into a college in America.
“Without their help it would have been extremely difficult to get over here and I would definitely recommend them to athletes from any sport who want to a pursue college in America,” Aaron said.
“My family has always been super supportive for me to follow my college dreams and I will always be so thankful to them, especially my mum who has sacrificed so much for my brother Andrew, sister Emily and myself to play tennis in our junior years and for me to continue to this day.”
As Aaron worked hard to make a name for himself on the tennis court in Australia, he came under the eye of tennis judges from the 14 and under level through to the opens, winning events in his home state as well as Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Ranked No 3 in NSW for his age group before leaving for the US, Aaron looks back fondly over his years with the tennis club in Gunnedah.
“I was lucky enough to win some big titles all across Australia but looking back I think some of my favourites are the Gunnedah club championships, North West championships and Country Closed Championships,” Aaron recalled.
“These titles were definitely ones that I strived to win and defend – my enjoyment of the sport was always the main encouragement for me to keep going but the wins were always great additions.
“My most memorable moments are the titles I won that were about more than just winning – titles like the Country Closed Championships, North West championships and especially the Gunnedah club championships, where my name has been inscribed on trophies underneath the rest of my family – I was even lucky enough to win a few of those titles with my brother which are moments I won’t forget.
“Being in a sport where there can only be one winner made it very hard at times unless of course you were the one who won.
“So I experienced a lot of up and downs over my career.
“I would say my specialty for tennis would be in doubles – growing up we played a lot of doubles so it was something I always enjoyed and had a lot of success in – because I was always a bit bigger bloke, I tended to play a much more aggressive style in singles so as not to have to run quite as much.”
Aaron said his main inspiration and encouragement came from his coach Dale Martin who has always been a part of his tennis career from the very beginning.
A champion tennis player in his day, Dale Martin won 37 club titles – 14 singles, 12 doubles and 11 mixed.
“Dale has also pushed me to become the best version of myself both as a player and as a person,” Aaron said.
“All my achievements and who I am are definitely directly linked to him – and really just everyone around the tennis community and the Gunnedah community I spoke to about going to college were all so excited and encouraging for me, which is why one of the reasons I love Gunnedah and it will always be my home.”
Aaron also pointed to his trainer Maryanne Perkins and all the trainers at Gunnedah Health and Fitness who encouraged him to chase his dreams and played a major role in getting him physically good enough to have a chance to go to America.
The COVID pandemic lock-down was also a difficult period for the teenager, who was so used to travelling and competing almost every weekend.
“Staying at home not knowing when the next event would be was tough on my motivation,” Aaron said.
“Luckily I had my coach Dale and trainer Maryanne who continued to push me to keep working and take advantage of the time to get better.
“During this time I was also in my senior years of school which was a very different and tough situation to navigate through.”
Ouachita University is a private Baptist University with 1500 students from 30 states and 30 nations.
It has a strong tennis tradition, with its tennis team in recent years winning the Central Southern Conference of the USA-wide intercollegiate competition to qualify for the national final 16 play-offs in Orlando, Florida.
“Over the past year I have played across the US in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida,” Aaron said.
“My advice to young people would be that if you have a dream, then make sure you work hard because it will be tough – and never forget where you came from and who helped you along the way.”To order photos from this page click here