Attending her favorite university has been a dream, and Taylor Calton is grateful to have done so without the burden of student loans. Calton, a junior on the University of Utah women’s tennis team, earned the opportunity to compete for the Utes through dedication and passion for her sport.
The Utah native started playing when she was 6 years old. She grew up participating in various clubs and tournaments and quickly gained interest in college athletics. Calton’s dreams became a reality when she entered the college recruiting process. Even though she kept her options open, Calton always had her eyes on the U.
“It’s the best school in Utah, and I wanted to compete in the Pac-12,” Calton said. “I would always see [the U’s] team posters all over the place and just wanted to be on it one day.”
Calton knew she would face stiff competition in the Pac-12, but she also knew she wanted to be on a team that was supportive of one another and one that represented their school well. Like many other Division I tennis players, she had to face the challenge of being in a headcount sport.
Headcount sports, such as women’s tennis and football, guarantee a limited number of full-ride scholarships per team. Equivalency sports on the other hand, can split the scholarship amounts among the teammates if the coaches desire to do so. This means some players can be on partial scholarships, full-ride scholarships or no scholarship.
Overall, around 59 percent of student-athletes in Division I conferences receive some form of aid. Still, each sport handles the scholarships differently depending on NCAA rules. DI athletic programs have strict budgets for how much aid can be offered. The budgets depend on sport revenue, performance and whether or not the sport is considered by headcount or equivalency.
Since the U’s women’s tennis team is a headcount sport, they can only fully fund eight players. Near the end of high school, Calton signed with the Utes and earned one of the eight athletic scholarships, thus making her dream come true of becoming a collegiate student-athlete.
Calton has been determined to make the most of it by adding to the team’s success and pursuing her education in finance. Earlier this season, Calton was named Pac-12 Women’s Tennis Player of the Week, and last year she was named a Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention.
Mat Iandolo, head coach of the women’s tennis team, recruited Calton for more than her talents on the court. He thought her positive attitude and perseverance in the classroom would be a beneficial asset to the team. Now in her third season with the Utes, Calton has found where she fits best.
“Taylor has learned and evolved from last year and has taken every bit of critique and used it to become a better player,” Iandolo said.
In addition to improving her athletic performance and finding an academic major she’s interested in, Calton feels other unique opportunities have opened up since starting a career at the U. Overall though, she’s grateful to be a part of a supportive team and to have acess to top-notch facilities.
“I’m lucky to be able to say that I’m one of the few athletes that was able to go to their dream school,” Calton said.