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Alica Derome Rebecca Saul
Woodhouse College
Alica Derome Rebecca Saul

Student aces $200k tennis scholarship in USA

Dated: 21 March 2019

Congratulations to Woodhouse student Yemisi Ifederu who has secured a $200k tennis scholarship to study at Howard University, a private, federally chartered historically black university in Washington, D.C.
“I was delighted when I got the news that I was in. I’ve known about HU for quite a long time and I like the fact that it has so much history and culture behind it. I plan to study international business alongside my tennis.”
Notable alumni include Thurgood Marshall, first African-American U.S. Supreme Court Justice as well as actors such as Taraji P. Henson, Chadwick Boseman, Ossie Davis and rapper Sean Combs.
“I was about five years old when I picked up a tennis racquet for the first time. Apparently I only managed to make contact with the ball once in that first hour, but my parents were patient. My dad used to play every weekend and I’d go with him. I was always athletic and my coaches have always considered me an athletic player. I started off with just training and lots of fitness when I was younger. I loved to cycle at weekends and go for runs every morning before school with my whole family - I was very energetic. My movement now is so good because I did so many different types of sport when I was younger.
I got a tennis scholarship with bursary at my secondary school - Queenswood School, a boarding school in Potters Bar - and started playing tournaments and that’s when I really got a lot better. I’ve spent a lot of years developing my single-handed backhand and that took a lot of work but it’s there now and my favourite shot.
I play at various tennis clubs, Muswell Hill and some of the David Lloyds, but I don’t really play internal competitions. I do play for Middlesex county - last weekend I went to Bath and won nationals in a doubles match. I started with an ace and finished with an ace so that was a very good experience.
My 2017/18 season, when I first joined Woodhouse, was probably my most memorable season as I won at county level, then went into regionals and won qualification into the nationals. I got through to the quarterfinals of nationals and my achievement of coming up through the ranks meant I got to play at invitationals, so a great season. I also won tournaments when I was younger on tours to the Czech Republic and Barcelona, which were also good achievements.
Tennis players get scouted from a young age and all of my progress is on a database with all my results online and that adds up to to your UTR (universal tennis ranking) and I’ve got an international ranking of 9 which is what universities want. On top of that I’ve already taken my SATs for American education entry including a five hour maths and english exam - quite exhausting.
Once I was ready to apply I emailed the coach at Howard University and told them of my interest in the school and my achievements, three hours later they contacted me for a conversation and soon after they offered me a ‘full ride’ scholarship. One important part of my application was my work experience and volunteering as they take this very seriously at US universities. I’ve done lots of volunteering at my church and ran a 10k for the NHS. Also, as part of the Career Ready programme at Woodhouse, I’ve had an internship at Fox Network National Geographic and visited many companies like Morgan Stanley and Pentland.
The ‘full ride’ scholarship means accommodation, tuition and all tennis trips (approximately $50k per year) are covered for the four year degree. I’ll also be playing a lot more tennis. I’ll be competing in four tournaments in the Autumn, but after Christmas its pretty much tournaments back to back. In fact the university give us extra tuition in autumn so we can get ahead before the busy season.
My parents are very happy that I got into my dream university, but my mum is worried about me leaving, although but I’ll be back home for the long summers. I have family in US too so I won’t be completely alone in the country.
I wanted to come to Woodhouse as it’s a great college and I wanted to be back home for a couple of years before I go away to university. At the moment my training is down to about 12 hours a week (in year 10 and 11 it was easily 20 hours a week) but I’ve had exams to study for so I’m just maintaining my fitness before university. Woodhouse has been supportive and my teachers are understanding of my tennis and accommodate it in terms of training schedules and time out of college.
I have a lot of big plans. I want to study in the United States because it’s a great opportunity to improve my tennis and I don’t feel I could get the same level of help in the UK. Then I want to go professional, but would still like to set up my own sports management business when I’m older and an international business degree will help a lot. And I’ve also already thought of my retirement (tennis could be a short career) as ultimately I want to found an orphanage in Nigeria.
Some people go professional at my age now, but it’s a risk. Only as an amateur can I take advantage of scholarships and I want to have that back-up plan in business because injury could end my tennis career at any time.
My tennis heroes are Justine Hénin-Hardenne - her is story is amazing and I like her one-handed backhand - and obviously Roger Federer, his technique, talent and footwork are amazing. I’ve tried to model my game on those two players. If it was possible I’d love to play Serena (Williams), though it’s maybe too late for me, but am I going to win Wimbledon one day? Yes for sure.”
We wish Yemisi every success at Howard and look forward to seeing her play at tournaments in the very near future.

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