By John "Woods" Armwood III
The St. Louis, Missouri native, Rachel Stuhlmann, continues to impact the game of tennis that will one day alter the game which we know today.
Interestingly, Stuhlmann is a triplet. When she and her siblings were in kindergarten, her parents, Doug and Lisa Stuhlmann encouraged Rachel and her siblings, Joseph and Hannah, to have fun in sports and choose a sport to play going forward. However, each sport was different from the one another so they wouldn’t compete against each other. With that being said, Joseph chose ice-hockey, Hannah chose gymnastics, and Rachel chose tennis.
“To be honest, I am not sure why I chose tennis, but it’s been one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made,” Stuhlmann emphasized in her Sh3gotgame interview.
As Stuhlmann began developing her skills at a young age and getting better at tennis, she crossed paths with recently inducted USTA Missouri Valley Hall of Famer, Craig Sandvig. He saw the potential in Stuhlmann and soon became her childhood coach. Sandvig remains a mentor in her life, and their relationship is stronger than ever as they’re in contact frequently. As she began to find success in her youth years, she became ranked amongst the top 50 women tennis players in the country, according to TennisRecuriting.net. This particular feat was a big deal to Stuhlmann’s legacy based on her goals growing up.
“As a junior player, I wanted to be the best I possibly could and I wanted to be the best in the state of Missouri,” Stuhlmann stated. “Looking back at it, it makes me feel good and shows something I accomplished and dreamed of for the majority of my young athletic life.”
Rachel Stuhlmann’s Collegiate Career
It’s no secret, that she was highly recruited throughout high school. In fact, she received so many offers from around the country that she was forced to narrow down a list of her top schools. Her finalists consisted of LSU, Colorado, Texas Tech, Penn State, and Missouri. Many may not know, but her LSU official visit was one of her favorite moments of her junior tennis experience. Like many top athletes, she was invited to the University on an official visit, in 2009. When she arrived at LSU, she was taken to a football game that featured some of the most prominent college football athletes.
“Okay, I have a crazy story; when I went on my official LSU visit, the tennis team took me to the LSU vs. Florida football game and it was when Florida had Tim Tebow,” She stated. “... it's hard to explain, you just had to be there the game was absolutely electric.”
While her experience at LSU was impactful, she soon realized her calling was back in her home state at the University of Missouri. Stuhlmann admits that while LSU may have been an exciting experience, she felt a sense of pride playing for her native state and staying closer to home. It made much more sense, she emphasized.
“When I got back home, I realized I was a homebody and I really wanted to be close to home and my parents,” Stuhlmann admits. “Columbia is only an hour and a half drive from St. Louis. I truly felt I belonged here.”
While at Mizzou, she soon realized what it would take to elevate herself to the next level. Rachel explains how she wasn’t gifted with much natural athletic ability like some of her peers. However, she was very tall and learned how to utilize this to her advantage and within her matches. To take her game to the next level, she always went twice as hard in the gym and worked profusely on her footwork and endurance. Rachel worked herself into the ground and truly fell in love with the process.
She states, “My whole life, I believe that I’ve been self-motivated.”
It only showed as her career began to take off. No matter what profession or activity she was involved in, she always wanted to be the best at it. Tennis seemed to be no different.
Perfect weather for some tennis😍☀️🎾 pic.twitter.com/hHb1oZqzmF— Rachel Stuhlmann (@rstuhlmann) March 21, 2022
Transitioning From Athlete to Journalist
After college, Stuhlmann decided to create her own website to share her ideas and thoughts around the sport of tennis. While she wasn’t playing tennis any longer, she still felt that passion and desire to remain around the game of tennis. Her website: Stuhlmann’s Instagram.
Eventually, a series of articles she posted on her website began to gain traction around the tennis world. Software company, Courtly, pursued her to be the host of their tennis content show, “The Toss Up.” Keep in mind, that Stuhlmann was primarily an athlete for most of her life and was exposed to minimal experience as a media host. However, she took the opportunity head-on. This experience lasted only a year, but it helped propel her career down the line.
“I said yes to a lot of opportunities that came my way. Courtly, found interest in me through my articles and wanted me to facilitate interviews and be more of an on camera host to help produce content,” Rachel stated. “I was used to being interviewed, never conducting interviews. However, it helped me get into the media world and played a huge role in where I am today.”
As one would assume, Stuhlmann became accustomed to the business over time. Naturally, she advances and becomes a highly skilled and trained journalist. She began to build confidence when she was handed more responsibility in the professional tennis space as a true member of the media and she handled it well. She has participated in hundreds of ATP and WTA press conferences, and has been conducting interviews on-site at many professional tournaments. She explains in great detail her experience at the 2021 Miami Open:
“In 2021, at the Miami Open, I was asked to conduct over 50 pre and post-match interviews, and it was tons of work. The biggest challenge for me occurred right after the championship match was completed. Ash Barty had just won, and I was asked to conduct this interview on the fly. Normally, I have 20 to 30 minutes to review the match and the results and prepare. However, this particular time,media suggested I conduct the interview on court immediately following the final point of the match. It was a challenge yet; it was successful and fun. This was very special to me”
The Impact of Tennis on Stuhlmann’s Life
The way sports have the ability to change someone’s life forever is truly inspirational. Stuhlmann explains how she had no clue what her future held, yet, she stayed consistent. The opportunities that grew from her purely just having a passion for the game of tennis changed her life forever. Now, she’s been put in a position to change the game of tennis potentially forever.
One of her most eye-opening experiences was when she took a leap that led to the city of Sofia, Bulgaria. Again, her writing was so compelling to tennis fanatics that she was invited to meet the President of the Bulgarian tennis Federation to be the tournament Ambassador for 250 ATP Sofia Open. Throughout her week in Bulgaria, she taught a tennis clinic to local children, spoke at the local college, and did extensive work throughout and around the tournament. However, she spoke about how eye-opening and liberating this experience was.
“Although, I was working so hard for the entirety of the week, the experience was an amazing life-changing opportunity,” Stuhlmann elaborated. “The connections I made from that trip have become lifelong friends that I still communicate with regularly, and the experience truly helped propel my career even further.”
As a woman in a male-dominated field, she’s become a bit of a trailblazer. The progress and impact she continues to make will only help inexperienced journalists and other females scratch the surface going forward. Not to mention, her impact on the game of tennis, she’s helped bring more recognition to the sport through her content and beautiful energy. Stuhlmann notes how the game of tennis is one of the few sports where the athletes don’t have to wear a uniform remaining that isn’t forced to wear a uniform. Yet, several players tend to wear the exact same thing at tournaments. Ironically, since writing her article on this, numerous clothing sponsors have came out to openly sponsor some of the bigger players in today's game. While there hasn’t been anything extremely groundbreaking, there are subtle changes and influences happening in the game of tennis that Stuhlmann has spearheaded. She continues to try to push the game forward.
Rachel Stuhlmann Continues to Make an Impact on Tennis
In conclusion, when asked if there was any advice she’d like to leave with anyone who follows her path closely or for any aspiring sports journalists in the world, she responded:
“Saying yes to all opportunities optimizes your opportunity at success even if you lack experience. Never worry about what other journalists or people in your respective field are doing, stay authentic to yourself. Lastly, my mom always told my siblings and I, “Work hard, do your best, and do it for the glory of God.” Stuhlmann said proudly.