SCAD students are a hardworking breed; that’s no secret. However, there is a sub-population of students who do not receive enough recognition for excelling in the art of balancing academia with extracurricular activities: student athletes.

I refer to them as athlete-artists, because while focusing on their major and chosen craft, they dedicate hours of their time to a sport where that artistic discipline is not exercised. For many of these students, playing a sport serves as an invaluable stress-reliever.

This column intends to spotlight student athlete-artists from each of SCAD’s sports teams, no matter how well-established or accomplished. This week’s piece highlights the dedication of two talented women’s tennis players who will compete alongside their teammates May 20 in Mobile, Alabama in the NAIA National Championships.  

Karina Rovira SCAD Women's Tennis

Karina Rovira, a third-year photography major, has been playing tennis for 15 years.

Tennis is one of the few sports I have played since my single digit years. I understand the scoring system, that you can’t have spaghetti arms when swinging the racket, and you need to trust the skill and rhythm of your doubles partner. For third-year photography major Karina Rovira and first-year Eika Johanna Weber, that rhythm developed over an introductory period of trial and error.   

“I think it just comes with time,” Weber said. “I feel in the beginning, we didn’t know how the other person would play or in general, we really didn’t know the other person.”

“Because when we first met,” Rovira added, “the trust and connection through that just wasn’t there. I feel like we’re closer than the other girls to one another because we are doubles partners and that’s kind of required. The little time we do have to spend with each other, you do work on that bond.”

Rovira and Weber’s bond emerged when they helped the Bees win the Sun Conference Tournament two weeks ago in Miami, defeating Southeaster 5-0 and Keiser 5-3. They even created their own doubles handshake for games, a high and low-five combo in which Rovira, who’s 5-4, high-fives Weber, 6-0, who low-fives back.

Karina Rovira

Rovira takes a photo break from practicing at the tennis courts at Forsyth Park.

Rovira, now 21, started playing tennis when she was 6. A native of Altamonte Spring, Florida, she said the sport played (pun intended) a large part in her college application process. 

“I was always super super into tennis, and always had a creative side but pushed it aside because of athletics,” Rovira said. “Then my final year, my senior year, I started just like observing what I liked more and experimenting with different things. It just came up that I was much better at — and enjoyed much more — the arts, so that went into photojournalism which went into photography.”

Eika Johanna Weber

Weber, who goes by “Johanna,” is a first-year student from Oslo, Norway.

Weber hails from Oslo, Norway, and though she is still deciding on her major, she had no doubts about pursuing her tennis career at the university level when looking at schools. She eventually discovered SCAD through a German agency for athletes.  

“I started playing tennis in second grade, but when I was 14 I really started,” Weber said. “I moved to Germany to attend academy. That was when it started to be intense.”

Although SCAD’s women’s tennis team is nationally ranked and well-accomplished, Rovira and Weber still encounter students surprised to learn of the team’s existence.

“It’s pretty common to hear, ‘We have a tennis team?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Are we good?’ ‘Yeah, we’re three in the nation,'” Rovira said. “I think people are surprised to hear that artists or creative people are really athletic.”

For Weber, balancing her foundation courses with tennis is nothing new; she said she is experienced in juggling school with sports.

“It’s probably not as hard for us to do it because we’re so used to it,” Weber said. “Since we always played a lot of tennis besides doing school, we always knew we had to really work after doing it, otherwise we wouldn’t finish it.”

The same strategy applies to Rovira’s academic and extracurricular approach.
“I think it also depends on your major, and then it’s really just doing it,” Rovira said. “People do ask pretty often, ‘How do you do it,’ and it’s like, ‘I don’t know I just do it…’ You have to be on top of your work…then you have to go to class, and then you have to do more work, and then you have to go to bed because you have practice at 6 a.m.”
Eika Johanna Weber SCAD Women's Tennis

Weber practices with Rovira at Forsyth Park.

Rovira said many elements of tennis are applicable to other disciplines because the amount of time and effort put in reflects the results.

“Also with communication and problem solving, you have to problem solve in seconds and I think that helps with time management and any sort of problems you have in your own work,” Rovira said.

Weber said she has always loved traveling with her team, from academy in Germany to university in Savannah.

“I often thought that was more fun than the games, which annoyed my coaches,” Weber said. “And I really enjoy being part of the team here at SCAD very much. In Germany, obviously you also played with a team, but it’s like you show up and you play together, and then you go, so you don’t really have a strong connection with the people.”

“Tennis isn’t a team sport outside of college at all,” Rovira added. “It’s very single-minded. You’re all separated, at least with my experience. So to come to a school with a team and have such great girls around you who really encourage and work well together and know one another, it’s just really refreshing. I think we really push each other to work hard, and so that’s what makes it really awesome.”

Rovira and Weber will travel with their fellow Bees to Mobile, Alabama to compete in the NAIA National Championships, May 20-22.