Diagnosed just about five years ago, Jesse Haas is dealing with his diabetes while perfecting his craft on the court
If being a collegiate athlete wasn’t hard enough on its own, having Type One Diabetes on top of that would daunt most people. Jesse Haas is not daunted. Haas, a junior on Azusa Pacific’s men’s tennis team, was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes at 16.
“I got diagnosed in May 2015, about five years ago now,” Haas said. “I just finished playing state for tennis when I found out. It was pretty heartbreaking. You don’t really know that much about it, but you know that it’s not good. Initially, you have all these thoughts of am I going to be able to keep playing tennis? Am I going to be able to live a normal life? What is it going to look like? You just don’t know.”
Living with diabetes presents a series of challenges for Haas.
“Having Type One diabetes limits your recovery. If you have an athlete with diabetes and an athlete without it, the one with diabetes just won’t recover as well,” Haas said. “I have to be smart in my training.”
Haas takes around eight to 12 injections per day to regulate his blood sugar. He has grown used to this, although it spooks some people when he injects his insulin in the middle of a conversation. Haas is more aware of a lot of aspects of nutrition than most people.
“When you have type one you have to think about the little things,” Haas said. “The worst part at the beginning was getting used to counting carbs, understanding that my body’s not going to feel good sometimes because of certain things I eat. Sometimes it’s not even in your control, your blood sugar just rises and falls on its own. The tough part is just accepting that you’re not going to be as healthy as you used to be and your life is going to be a little bit more complicated.”
While managing everyday life can be difficult for him at times, Haas has grown used to it through a basic routine. He maintains a good sleep schedule, works out most mornings and drinks a lot of water.
After his diagnosis, Haas learned a lot about good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. He quickly developed a passion for fitness. This led him to decide on his major — kinesiology. “In a kind of a twisted way, it’s been a blessing because it’s showed me what I really love and what I’m passionate about,” he said.
After graduation, Haas is unsure of what he wants to do. He loves nutrition but doesn’t know if it’s the right career for him. He has thought about going to graduate school for physical therapy or biomechanics as well. On top of this, he hasn’t ruled out going pro.
“That’s been a dream of mine for a long time,” Haas said. “I would love to go pro, but with my current skill level and health, I don’t know if I’ll be able to. We’ll see in two years and if I’m able to, that would be a dream.” Haas began playing tennis when he was nine-years-old, but he didn’t start taking it too seriously until he was 11 when he began traveling and playing in tournaments.
He continued playing through middle school and high school, before joining Azusa Pacific’s men’s tennis team. At APU Haas has excelled on the court. Last year in his sophomore campaign, Haas had a 16-4 record in singles and a 15-8 record in doubles.
Although he played many memorable matches last year, Haas said his most significant match came just last week, against the Cougars’ biggest rival, Biola. APU lept to a quick 2-0 lead, but soon Biola clawed back and with a 3-3 tie Haas’ match was the deciding factor.
He won the first set 6-4 but fell in the second set 3-6. The third set came down to a tiebreaker, which Haas won 7-3, sealing the victory for the Cougars.
“It was under the lights and everybody was watching. I knew it came down to me. That’s the dream. To close at 7-6 in the third set, that’s awesome,” Haas said. “In those situations, it helps that coach [Mark] Bohren pushes us so hard. We prepare a lot better than other teams, that’s a strength of ours. When you’re in those situations, I think you feel more comfortable because you’re ready for it. You play with a little more confidence, a little more of an edge.”
Haas said the support from his teammates was critical along the way.
“My teammates have been great role models for me,” Haas said. “My dad and my coach Jim were probably the biggest mentors in my life. They instilled my work ethic in me. But right now, my teammates are the biggest mentors. They support me and create an environment where I can stay on top of things.”
As a junior, Haas has a little over a year left at APU. He plans on improving every day on the court and enjoying all the time he has left with his team. “At the end of the day, during my last match, I want to look out on the court and see my teammates as friends,” Haas said. “If I can do that, I know I’ll have been successful.”