South Florida sophomore plays the mental game

It's the challenges that motivate Aussie Cham

Elijah Cham returns the ball during a rally at practice.
Australian sophomore Elijah Cham knows that mental health cannot be ignored. (Photo courtesy USF). 

TAMPA, Fla. – For Australian tennis player Elijah Cham, it’s all in the head.

Getting the best out of his mental game is a priority for Cham, who finds himself on the other side of the world pursuing his passion at the University of South Florida.

Off the court, he studies psychology but “tennis is what motivated me. … because of the challenges that [it] brings”.

He sees sports psychology as a realistic career path for his future.

Regardless of sport, top athletes agree that mental health is imperative to success. Adapting to the pressure is one of the most difficult aspects of top-level sport, especially so far away from home.

Cham said he’s made progress but also knows that mastering the mind is a never-ending road.

“Learning the mental tools to overcome [challenges] took me all of last year,” he said in an interview March 6 at the USF tennis facility.

Cham said he’s only recently begun to identify the skills that provide him with a mental soundness that he didn’t have when he first arrived in Florida.

USF Men's Tennis team watches the final match of the day.
The University of South Florida Men’s Tennis team looks to build momentum through the rest of the season. (Photo by: Sulien Khan)

He points to a match against Penn State last year that he feels was one of the worst matches of his career. Since then, he’s taken the time to work on his play but also placing more importance on his mental game.

Cham is only now starting to realize the difference in his game from last spring when he joined USF. The adage of ‘playing the long game’ once again proves its relevance.

Making it easier for Cham is the fact that diversity in American collegiate tennis is common so playing internationally has not been a concern for him.

The game has grown substantially, and he points to a few uncommon instances where colleges USF would play had little diversity in their rosters.

Having not played a match today, Elijah’s energy was fully evident. When prompted with “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” he belted out a vibrant “Oi! Oi! Oi!”

About this article

Posted: Mar 7 2024 8:04 pm
Filed under: College NCAA Sports Tennis