Woman posing with a mascot in a cap and gown
Maddy Frediani will graduate from the College of Education and Human Development with a degree in kinesiology with a concentration in health science. During her time at AU, she also became a handler for mascot, Augustus. [Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Tennis standout found her passion, confidence as a Jaguar

Maddy Frediani was burned out, lacked confidence and was not sure she’d ever pick up a tennis racket again after her sophomore year at Georgia State University.

She had settled on Georgia State because it seemed like the best fit at the time, but her playing time was sporadic and she never found a major that interested her.

After realizing she wanted to go into athletic training she began to focus on kinesiology and searched for a better fit. Frediani loved the state of Georgia and wanted to stay in state, so when she explored transferring, she visited Augusta University and immediately fell in love with the campus.

Now, she will graduate from the College of Education and Human Development with a degree in kinesiology with a concentration in health science.

“I came on a visit and loved the campus and found it was a lot better for my major while also giving me the opportunity to play No. 1 singles and doubles,” she said.

A passion from an early age

Frediani has been involved with sports since she was 3-years-old, but she began focusing solely on tennis after a coach in Portugal told her parents they felt she had the talent to compete at a high level.

Originally from Preston, England, Frediani knew after high school she wanted to study and play tennis in the United States, which allowed her to compete at a higher level.

When she was 16, Frediani made her one and only visit to the U.S. prior to college, a 10-day school trip to the West Coast. The visit, coupled with hearing about the experiences of other students at her academy, solidified her decision to look for a college in the U.S.

“I was seeing that life over here was something I wanted to do,” Frediani said. “I’ve always loved playing with a team, even with a sport like tennis that is an individual sport. College allows you to be on a team. I’ve always loved that part of tennis.”

Woman smiling in cap and gown
[Michael Holahan/Augusta University]

Tennis being popular in just about every country in the world has meant that many college teams across the U.S. pursue international players. All eight of Frediani’s teammates at AU are international student-athletes, something that resonates with Frediani because all of the teammates are not from the same place and everyone is learning to adapt together, which helps with the team bond.

“The freshmen class came in and I took them under my wing. Being the senior, I keep checking in on them and make sure that they’re good,” Frediani said. “I think this is one of the reasons we’re doing so well this season, is because our team chemistry is so strong, and just everyone is always there for one other whether it’s on or off the court.”

Finding a connection

That deep connection with her teammates and her professors paid off almost immediately for Frediani.

“To come here really allowed me to grow as a person, on the court and in the classroom. My GPA has risen so much since being here and I got my confidence back and I’ve been allowed to work jobs and have made so many new connections.”

Working those jobs landed her an opportunity to become a handler for AU’s mascot, Augustus.

“AU has given me what I had hoped my college experience was going to be like the whole four years. I’m super happy that I’ve been able to at least do two years like that.”

Maddy Frediani

She was working with intramurals in Campus Recreation and wanted to pick up some more hours when someone suggested becoming one of Augustus’ handlers. She contacted Bryan Waller, the intramural sports coordinator and coordinates Augustus’ appearances. Waller said once the two connected, “they have had a lot of fun together.”

“I’ve really enjoyed it, and actually getting that job was the best thing that happened to me because it allowed me to meet so many people,” Frediani said. “A lot of the job is social media and taking pictures. We just have to develop a really good relationship with the people who are Augustus because we are very much their eyes and ears, and we have to make sure, especially when we’re outside, that they’re good and not getting overheated.”

Two of her favorite experiences were the first times handling Augustus, including an event at SRP Park in North Augusta followed by an event in November at an elementary school.

“There was a race they all did, and it was just really sweet to see all the little kids with him. Kids are always very cute to see around him,” Frediani said.

A supportive community

The adjustment to college in the U.S. took a little bit of time for Frediani due to how fast-paced everything feels, but she found a support system at AU in the form of Hannah Bennett, PhD, undergraduate program director for kinesiology. Bennett is also Frediani’s faculty advisor and has become “the one person who’s literally been my rock.”

In addition to her teaching and research responsibilities, Bennett handles much of the program curriculum and works with transfer and new student admits.

“I think she really came out of her shell in class, and I really valued her perspective because she gave some really great examples related to her experiences with previous coaches and teams and how that shaped her into the athlete that she is,” Bennett said.

Woman playing tennis
Maddy Frediani was named to the Women’s 2024 Peach Belt Conference First Team All-Conference. [Augusta University Athletics]

Bennett said she enjoyed how much Frediani was willing to contribute to class discussions and it didn’t take long for them to get along.

“As soon as I got here, she set out a timetable for me from junior year all the way through to spring senior year of what classes I had to take, making sure I didn’t take too many hard classes at the same time and made sure my workload was manageable,” Frediani said. “Every single kinesiology professor I’ve had, has been so supportive. They’re so understanding if I said, ‘Hey, I have five games this week and I’m really going to struggle getting my work done.’ They just say ‘Don’t worry, we’ll work with you.’ They’re a really understanding department.”

Bennett said hearing that makes her feel grateful for the job she has and reminds her to focus on the unique perspective that each student brings to campus.

“One of the best parts of my job is building that relationship with students and it feels really good that she looks to me as someone that she can go to and someone that’s helped moving forward,” she said. “I love advising and helping students map out what they want their future to look like. I’ve been able to help her plan out what she wants to do but she knows that she can just pop into the office and talk to me.”

After graduation, Frediani plans to move to New York to coach at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy before returning to AU for graduate school.

“AU has given me what I had hoped my college experience was going to be like the whole four years,” Frediani said. “I’m super happy that I’ve been able to at least do two years like that.”

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Written by
Miguelangelo Hernandez

Miguelangelo Hernandez is a senior communications and media coordinator at Augusta University. You can reach him at mighernandez@augusta.edu or (706) 993-6411.

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man smiling Written by Miguelangelo Hernandez

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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