Munar & More Hit The Books: ATP Players Pursuing Higher Education
Jaume Munar had a busy start to April, and not just because he reached back-to-back finals in Spain.
On the court, the 23-year-old impressed on home soil at the Marbella ATP Challenger Tour and ATP 250 events. But off court, Munar was busy taking on an even bigger challenge: hitting the books and going back to school.
Munar is one of an ever-growing number of players pursuing higher education during their playing careers. Through partnerships with top global institutions including the University of Palermo, Indiana University East and Coursera, the Tour offers members a variety of remote educational opportunities in English and Spanish.
“During the pandemic, I had a lot of time. I spent hours and hours reading and watching movies, watching TV, and at one point I stopped and said, 'Why don’t I use this time to do something really useful?'” Munar told ATPTour.com. “That’s when I looked at the ATP benefits that we have as players, and one of them was Coursera.”
Coursera, a massive open online course provider featuring world-class universities and companies including Yale, the University of Michigan, Google and IBM, gave Munar an opportunity to dip his toes back into education by studying topics he was interested in. The Spaniard wasn’t the only one who used the Tour’s downtime for studying: in 2020, more than 100 current and former players enrolled in Coursera courses.
“I’d actually used Coursera in the past for a few things and knew it was very accessible,” Daniell said. “The Effective Altruism class I took definitely reinvigorated my passion for giving back, and was the kick in the bum I needed to get something like HIA started.”
For Munar, the experience inspired him to go on to finish his undergraduate degree in Economics, which he first began after finishing high school. The 23-year-old started at the University of Palermo, one of the top-ranked universities in Latin America, with a full-time course load in April.
“When I have the brain focussed on the studies, on the class, on the lesson I have, it’s something that really helps me to get out of tennis and take a break from this,” Munar said. “We are at the tennis club all day. The whole day, [we are] just watching the little yellow ball.
“It’s always beautiful to learn something that’s not just the same thing, and to open your mind to something new. I think it’s beautiful for everyone.”
Through the partnership, the University of Palermo offers scholarships towards a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and short courses in Spanish to ATP members. All of the learning is done online, which allows players to complete a subsidised and globally-recognised education alongside their full-time work and travel schedules in tennis.
Since the partnership’s inception in July 2020, eight current players, including Munar and Francisco Cerundolo, have enrolled in degree programmes. Bruno Echagaray is a former player who has also done so.
Rajeev Ram is one of the players who has completed an online degree at Indiana University East, which offers ATP members scholarships, flexibility and their own academic advisor to assist with all parts of their experience. In addition to these partnerships, the Tour supports and assists players in finding educational opportunities that can better prepare them for life after tennis.
Recently, a cohort of seven players including Pablo Andujar and Matthew Ebden joined Harvard Crossover into Business, a semester-long program in which professional athletes are matched with Harvard Business School Master of Business Administration student mentors. The programme helps better prepare athletes for business activities during and after their sports careers through discussions and analysis of case studies, which empowers them to make better business decisions.
“I’m very happy because what we did were real cases and I think the fact that we were talking about it and debating a lot with our mentors, it helped me a lot and gave me new ideas,” Andujar said. “To have these kinds of people [explain] how to manage these cases is something very important and something that is difficult to have. For sure this experience will help me achieve other things in the future… I am really thankful.”
Pursuing higher education while competing at the highest level of tennis can seem like a hectic juggling act at first. But for players like Munar, who dedicates an hour and a half to his studies every day, finding the right balance has been a rewarding experience.
“We have to [get used to it]. If you want to study during your tennis career, of course you have to do these kinds of things,” Munar said. “But it’s something beautiful, at least in my opinion, because I have the chance to do so through the ATP and the University of Palermo. It’s beautiful for me to combine these two and not just be focussed on one thing.
“Life is long, but it’s not so long that you can afford to let time pass you by. I like to use every second I have, and I think with these opportunities that the ATP brings us, we can do that.”