‘Love’ at first sight: Tennis player, Kinesiology student named College of Education graduation marshal

Published: July 21, 2023

Article body

Anastasia Astakhova fell in love with tennis when she was a four-year-old girl living in Kazakhstan. She didn’t just enjoy tennis, though. She excelled at the sport.

“It became my biggest passion and the reason I ended up coming to the United States,” she said. “I was a top-ranked junior player in Kazakhstan and won the National Championships in doubles in 2018.”

In 2020, Astakhova was recruited by Auburn women’s tennis head coach Caroline Lilley, and she has now played three seasons for Auburn.

“It is a great honor and unforgettable experience to be a student-athlete at Auburn University, and I am beyond happy I can call Auburn my second home,” she said.

In addition to playing tennis, the physical activity and health major immersed herself in leadership and development opportunities during her time as a student.

“I was a representative from the women’s tennis team on Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and CONNECT Leadership Program. In my junior year, I was involved with the Performance Optimization training program for ROTC cadets led by Professor Agostinelli as a part of my practicum curriculum. This summer, I am doing my internship at the Moore’s Mill Fitness Center, where I have an amazing opportunity to apply everything I have learned at Auburn,” she said.

The School of Kinesiology was a natural fit for Astakhova, as she’s spent much of her life playing tennis, traveling the world to compete in tournaments, and working with coaches and strength and conditioning professionals.

“From a young age, I knew that if I was not going to be a professional tennis player, I would be pursuing a career in the sports industry, coaching in particular,” she said. “Coming to Auburn, I decided to major in Physical Activity and Health as it offers everything I need for a successful coaching career.

When asked what she likes best about the Kinesiology program at Auburn, Astakhova said it’s the people that made all the difference.

“In every class I took, my professors always wanted me to succeed in class and life. Their encouragement, support, wisdom, and desire to share their knowledge created the best environment for me to learn and grow as a student, a future specialist, and a person,” she said.

Astakhova described her time at Auburn as an “unforgettable experience” and said she is grateful for the challenges, opportunities, lifetime connections, and adventures.

“One of the biggest lessons I learned is to serve and give back to my community, and as they say, ‘If you love Auburn, Auburn will love you back,’” she said. “My experience at Auburn was life changing.”

With her bachelor’s degree complete, Astakhova is setting her sights on Charleston Southern University, where she will complete one remaining year of tennis eligibility while earning her master’s in business administration.

“After completing my tennis eligibility, I plan on working as a graduate assistant coach for the women’s tennis team at Charleston Southern University,” she said.

Her career goals include working around collegiate and professional sports to help athletes perform to the best of their abilities. She is specifically interested in performance monitoring and optimization as well as injury prevention in athletes.

“I am currently working on getting my certification in strength and conditioning,” she said. “My first career goal is to work with D1 collegiate tennis players as an assistant and, hopefully, a head coach. Later in my career, I would like to explore the specifics of other sports and eventually open a performance optimization center that focuses on serving the needs of competitive athletes and building the foundation for their successful careers.”

Anastasia Astakhova