Michigan senior Michelle DaCosta wasn’t satisfied with
having just one goal growing up. So she decided to have two.
DaCosta began playing tennis at age seven — competitively
at age nine — and she always had a love for the game. But
tennis wasn’t a subject in school or a major in college, and
the professional tour was extremely competitive. So DaCosta turned
to her parents, for another focus. With a nurse for a mother and a
dentist for a father, the choice was natural.
“I’ve always had an interest in medicine and health
in general,” DaCosta said. “But I didn’t want to
be a dentist because my dad was one.”
DaCosta continued to develop her medical interest as she grew
older and her ability to excel both on the court and in the
classroom led her to Ann Arbor. She is concentrating in
biopsychology and cognitive sciences with a Biology minor, while
fulfilling all of the pre-medicine requirements — putting a
better label on where she wanted to take her medical future. She
now hopes to one day be an OBGYN with a focus on fertility.
Being either a student-athlete or a biopsychology pre-medicine
major is certainly never easy by itself. But being both?
DaCosta’s plate is more than full. In fact, it’s
overflowing. She has an appetizer of sleep neurobiology and
endocrinology twice a week. She follows that with a side of
biopsychology lab for 10-12 hours a week. Her main course is as
many 11 hours of tennis practice a week, starting at 8 a.m. on
Tuesdays. DaCosta tops everything off with a dessert of tennis
tournaments and matches, which start in October and run all the way
Take for example, the early October All-American Championships,
which took place in Pacific Palisades, Calif. DaCosta left on a
Sunday and didn’t return until the following Saturday,
missing an entire week of classes. As if that wasn’t enough,
she had finals and papers due the week of her return.
“I was waking up at 10 a.m. to play matches all day and
then coming back to the hotel to study and write papers,”
DaCosta said. “All you want to do is lie down and relax, but
All of this work may seem like enough to make the average
student quit one or the other. But DaCosta is far from average. She
not only gets by, she thrives under the mountains of work.
She’s played No. 1 singles for the Wolverines consistently
for the past two years and No. 1 doubles all three. She has also
been named to the All Big-Ten academic team both years she’s
been eligible and has received the U-M Athletic Academic
Achievement award all three years. Such a hard work ethic
didn’t just pop up out of nowhere.
DaCosta can attribute that to family as well.
“Both of my brothers are really smart and the kind of guys
who can not study, take a test, and get an A,” DaCosta said.
“I always had to work really hard just to compete with the
grades they got.”
DaCosta’s competitive nature is paying dividends.
She’s looking forward to a successful senior campaign
before taking a fifth academic year to complete her studies.
“I’ll probably focus on medical school after this
season,” DaCosta said. “Being a student-athlete at
Michigan shows good balance to (potential) medical schools. And
I’m looking forward to just being a regular
But her typical college life is still a year away. As the
weather cools and the exams and assignments pile up, her double
life is just starting again. The journey begins again in January,
when the dual-meet season reaches full swing.