In the latest installment of our Student-Athlete Alumni Spotlight series, we visit with former women’s tennis player, Linda Johansson. Johansson, a native of Sweden who lettered from 2004-2008, earned All-Atlantic Sun honors three times and ranks in the top-10 in school’s Division I history in single season and career singles wins.
Why did you choose Belmont?
Finding the right university is probably a bigger challenge when you live outside the American borders. Luckily, one of my former tennis coaches in Sweden had a cousin in Nashville who knows Mark (Srouji), so that’s how I first heard of Belmont. I remember that I very early on in my conversations with Mark felt a deep trust with him as a coach and leader. I also remember that Colette Keyser was a great help throughout the entire application process which, for an international student, can be pretty laborious considering all the extra paper work and tests one has to take. The support and encouragement Mark and Colette (Keyser) gave me, along with Belmont being an exceptionally good school academically, is why I chose Belmont.
What is your fondest athletic memory at Belmont?
I have so many fond memories of my athletic career at Belmont but one that especially sticks out in my mind is when we played Campbell my junior year at the first round of the conference tournament (we had lost to them during season 6-1). I had played pretty well the entire season, but remember having some less well-played matches at the end, so my confidence was quite low going in to the tourney. I started off by losing the doubles match (the team lost the doubles point as well), so we had a lot of pressure going into the singles. I won, Elizabeth Conyer won at #2 singles and played one of her last senior matches on the court next to me. Everyone showed great team spirit that day and we ended up winning 4-3 after a tough, three-set deciding match. I still smile when I think back at how happy everyone was after the win! We celebrated by eating dinner at Outback.
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Belmont?
Coach Mark Srouji! He made me realize what a joy, blessing and a privilege it is to be part of an athletic team. He made it more about than just winning. I felt like he truly cared about each player and we were not simply commodities to be used for a winning record. He wanted our college experience to be joyful; he wanted us to do well academically and he wanted each one of us to flourish in our respective tennis games. I also want to give a shout-out to Mark’s dad, aka “Dad-Srouji” who was our biggest fan! He came out to basically all of our home games and cheered us on. “Get out there and get her, champ!” he would always tell me before each match.
What is the most valuable thing you gained from your time at Belmont?
You meet students from so many different walks of life when you’re in college. We’re all gathered in one place, under one ”roof,” with the same goal of one day graduating. What fascinates me about campus life is that we’re all different: we come from different backgrounds and cultures; sometimes we’ve shared similar struggles but oftentimes our dissimilarities stem from our unique and individual life stories. During my four years at Belmont I interacted with students who saw the world through different eyes than me and who challenged me to re-think and re-evaluate certain positions I held. I see that as an exceptionally valuable experience. In addition to a Bachelors of Arts degree, my time at Belmont gave me a broader worldview and a deeper understanding/greater respect for people who are different than me.
What advice would you give to current members of the tennis team?
Make sure to have a good team dynamic! When you’re “in season” you’re bound to spend a lot of time on the road together which, combined with tons of homework and upcoming exams, can be quite challenging. Always give your teammate an extra word of encouragement when you sense she needs it and remember to support each other – both on and off the court. Who knows, maybe one of your teammates end up becoming your life-long friend. I found mine in Elizabeth (Conyer Long) who I today consider to be my closest friend. Despite the distance, we keep in touch weekly; I visit her every summer in Nashville, and I am Godmother to her firstborn son, Jonathan.
Who was your favorite professor?
Tough question because I do recognize that Belmont has so many great professors! However, Dr. Sybril Bennett always comes to mind when I think of people who do more than what’s expected of them. I must confess that I was a little bit intimidated by her at first; she is tough in the classroom and she pushes you to the max. What’s great about her is that she’s genuinely passionate about the media industry so it’s inspiring to see her in action when she teaches. However, “Dr. Syb” became more than my professor. As I got to know her outside the classroom I realized that this is someone who truly wants me to do well in life. Not only that, she is willing to help me along the way even if it means she needs to go the extra mile and do more than what’s required of her as a professor. “Always come knocking on my office door if you need anything,” she said – and I did. I could come knocking frustrated, sad, discouraged, confused quite a few times when life became challenging. Somehow Dr. Syb always managed to get me back on track and for that I am very grateful.
Where do you live now?
What is your present occupation?
Before I moved back to Sweden in 2010 I spent two years in Los Angeles, CA where I worked as a production assistant for different movies such as Fast & Furious 4, Terminator and The Back-Up Plan. I also worked full-time as a production assistant for The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Today I work with two things: my full-time job entails being an account manager for one of Sweden’s biggest publishing companies, Aller media. We have 40 magazines in total, including Swedish ELLE magazine and popular weekly magazines that have been read in Swedish households since the 1800s! At Aller media I work in the advertising department; I have daily contact with marketing directors and tailor their marketing plans for print, web, events, as well as sponsorship for different galas such as the annual ELLE Gala. It’s a lot of networking and a lot of fun!
Last year I also started a non-profit organization with my friend Cecilia that I work with on a daily basis. In short, we want to motivate young children to exercise more since 1 in every 5 children in Sweden are on the verge of obesity. At the same time, we’re both passionate about social responsibility so we combined those two aspects and started CharityFit. In the program, parents sign their children up for so called “CharityFit Bootcamps” where we in a fun way help them exercise and play. Fifty percent of the fee goes uncut to three specifically chosen charity-organizations that we trust and want to support. As part of the boot camp, the children learn about the organizations and, by the end of each camp, choose which organization they want their 50% to go to. Since the start, 80 children have taken part in some CharityFit-related activity and we’ve mediated over $11,000 to the three charities. In 2015, Cecilia and I were nominated by H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf’s ”Foundation for Young Leadership” as a result of our work with CharityFit.
Tell us about your family.
I have a pretty small family. I’m the only child so I have no siblings. My parents, paternal grandparents, aunt and two cousins live in Sweden. My maternal grandparents live in Poland. No children of my own yet, but would love to have a big family in the future whenever my Prince Charming decides to show up.