NKRUMAH KWAME MICHAEL PATRICK played around a lot, literally, before deciding to take tennis seriously.
The 21-year-old tried “all different sports” before settling on tennis, through which he hopes to see the world. But it also came about when he was forced to choose one sport after breaking his arm.
And tennis has been kind to him. Patrick is currently on a partial athletic scholarship at Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, New Hampshire.
The Tunapuna resident’s love for sport was fostered by a family involved in it. He said, “Growing up, I always tried all different sports because I came from a background of sports. My dad played basketball and my mom played hockey.”
But it was his uncle, Dave Patrick, who introduced him to tennis at five. Dave is still his tennis coach and the person he gives most the credit for his success. “Growing up I really was not taking it that serious. I was playing football, I was playing cricket, I was doing running, I was doing swimming, so I was not all focused as to what I really wanted to do with the tennis.”
But Dave and others saw the natural ability Patrick has for the game.
The decision to finally take tennis came after an unfortunate incident.
He said, “The funny thing about it is, I picked up tennis seriously and then I made the decision because of a situation back in 2012 when I was in form two going into form three.
“It was football league, I attended Trinity College, Moka, Maraval and I was the goalkeeper. However, I broke my arm and my parents told me I have to decide which sport I want to be serious in. I broke my arm in two places...so my mom kind of got paranoid and she said ‘stick to tennis and this is what you are going to do’...”
Patrick said he and his cousin Maling Goodridge would always say that “we would get a tennis scholarship and go away. That was when I decided this is what I have to do and this is what I needed to do. I also got help from our assistant coach, Jermille Danclar, he helped me get it.”
The road to the scholarship was not always easy for Patrick. In fact, he said, “The process was really long for me being an international student, I would say...I think that was the hard part, just waiting and waiting and waiting...”
“I waited for approximately a year and something. Almost two years before being granted the scholarship.”
What made getting the scholarship even sweeter was that everyone initially doubted him. He said getting the scholarship in 2017 was “one of the greatest feelings I ever felt. A lot of people doubted me because of how I was back then. I was all over the place. I was not very mature.”
The university’s programme is very diverse, he said, and his team comprises of him and two other international students.
Patrick, who plays singles, doubles, and, recently, mixed doubles sees himself going as far as possible in tennis.
He hopes to make it to the professional level, although by international standards he is a bit old. “There are some 19-year-olds who are already world ranked,” he said. But Patrick believes “everybody blossoms in their own way.”
Playing tennis does not give Patrick much of a social life. “You always have to practise, practise. You also have to train. You need your rest. I would see my friends going here and there and I would have practise in the morning or practise in the afternoon.”
He said he is missing out on a social life, but is willing to give up on that if it means being successful in tennis.
But even though it is a serious sport, Patrick believes tennis should also be fun and one of the reasons why he admires Novak Djokovic. “He is the greatest man in my eyes. I adore that guy. He is funny. Although he is like all about business, he knows when to have fun.”
Like Djokovic, he said, “When I am on the court, I always do something crazy, always do something funny to make somebody laugh.”
Each day, Patrick is motivated by his own saying, “The grind don’t stop because once you stop grinding you lose” to do better.
After completing his BA in Business Management in 2021 he wants to start a foundation to give back to people in need.