Follow the happenings of an animated college tennis coach and his teams in their pursuit of an NCAA National Tennis Championship. It is always the impressive trophy that is displayed for all to admire that gets the attention, but it is the journey to claiming that trophy, the relationships built, the people served and the memories created, that live forever...and what I hope you will find interesting...
Wow, what a title. Now there’s some serious symbolism for the fast approaching transition from year end to new year beginning. So this will be the last blog post for 2009. I am sure that this will bring about a reaction similar to that of when Ed McMahon reveals to Carnac the Magnificent, played by Johnny Carson, that “I hold in my hand, the last envelope.” (click here for Carnac)
As I am sure many of you know, the spring semester at Concordia begins substantially earlier than most factions of higher education this coming Tuesday, January 5th. Tennis practice will assuredly begin shortly thereafter. If everything goes well, we will have another player joining the fold as the new year begins. Martin Miedzowicz of Uruguay has been accepted to the college and is scheduled to arrive in New York for the spring semester. Martin will bring additional depth to a lineup that already has quite a bit of talent, especially at the top. We look forward to
welcoming Martin and expect great things for the team in 2010.
Of course, the turning of the calendar year is a time for many things. Some make resolutions. Some party like rock stars. Others like to celebrate traditions with family and friends. As for me, I like to reflect. I like to think about the experiences that I have had this past year and the things that I have learned. Also, as I like to speak of goals quite often, I like to ponder the efforts I have made and the subsequent goals reached. I like to think about my personal and professional relationships with others and the happiness that has ensued. I like to remember the work, the joy, the many laughs and even the tears. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I like to think about the opportunity to live life and the many good things that are to come.
In any case, I wish you all a 2010 filled with health, happiness, joy, laughter, success, and much love. “One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.” - John Burroughs
The final exams have been taken and the fall semester has reached its conclusion. With that, the academic grades have now been posted. With some computation, the clipper tennismen have realized a team GPA (Grade Point Average) of 3.23 for the semester. In addition, three players have earned a place on the college’s Dean’s List by achieving a GPA of 3.5 of higher.
Clearly, an average of 3.23 is rather stellar and the team should be proud of themselves for excelling in the classroom as well as on the tennis court. One of the goals set by the coaching staff is to achieve a collective team GPA of 3.2 or higher. Attaining this would qualify the squad for a spot on the ITA All-Academic team list. Certainly no small accomplishment. In addition, players achieving a GPA of 3.5 or higher for the 2009-2010 school year will be named as an ITA Scholar Athlete.
Last season the Clippers fell just short of the team honor yet had two named to the Scholar Athlete roll. Keep up the good work and lets hope for some good news in May.
If you are a loyal reader or frequent visitor to this blog, you will know that I attended the wedding of Vish and Michelle Varghese this past Saturday. Outside of mentioning that the extravaganza took place during a substantial winter storm, yet turned out to be marvelous and special, many other thoughts were traveling through my head.
Now, most of you who know me well probably would not describe me as a sentimental man (although I really am at times) so this read may surprise some. Of course, I was heavily involved in tennis through college and a few years thereafter. However, I set the racquets, that are now antiques, down somewhere in the basement, or gave them away to friends when I decided that I no longer enjoyed playing and saw no future in tennis as a career. After about a decade away from the game, I came back to tennis and started to coach and implement strength and conditioning programs for the clippers. I started this as a way to honor my parents who were involved with the college and to give to a program that provided for me. However, sitting there at Vish’s wedding, I realized something else...
I am a very blessed person! I have the opportunity to meet and be apart of so many people’s lives from all over the world. Who knows if that is a good thing for them, but I know it is for me. In any case, let me continue. There I was enjoying a Greek beer (perhaps enjoying is a gracious term in describing the beverage experience) and my delicious dinner as my attention turned to the folks both at my table and the table adjacent. Seated were many former players, most of whom I recruited to Bronxville, and gentleman that I now call friends. Some came alone and some attended with spouses, significant others and/or friends. Regardless, I watched as everyone genuinely enjoyed themselves, and most notably, each other. For me, it was very gratifying to see so many make great effort to travel in terrible weather conditions and from far away places like Spain, Brazil, Morocco, India, and yes, Bronxville to be together and celebrate...together. Interestingly, it also seemed like, even though some had not seen each other for over a year or even longer, that no time had really passed. Friendships just picked right up as if they had seen each other the previous day. I felt a sense of great joy and comfort seeing this closeness and also that these guys had grown up from madcap college guys to mature young men, husbands, fathers and successful business people. In addition, the bonds that they have formed with each other are something special that I hope will never be broken.
At the beginning of each tennis year, we ask the players to submit a list of personal goals for the upcoming season and semester. In addition, the players are given a list of the Coaches goals. One coaches goal that often gets a funny look is: Every player makes a life-long friend. It was quite clear that this goal is really one of the most important, one that has been met by the vast majority of those going through the program, and certainly one that has been met by my fellow wedding attendees and even yours truly. I would bet this goal is better understood now.
Perhaps I am just getting old, or maybe simply suffering from the effects of too many Greek beers, but today is a happy day for me. I am very thankful to have been included in the special day and I will not soon forget how lucky I am to be associated with so many fine individuals. It is worth repeating that I am a blessed man. How great to play somewhat of a role in the development of other people’s lives. Even greater to see what they have done with those lives. I wish you all similar blessings.
A hearty congratulations to clipper tennis alum Vishal Varghese (2002), and Michelle D’Orazio who will be tying the knot/getting married Saturday, December 19th 2009 in New York, New York. The service and reception will be held at the Thalassa Restaurant with the festivities scheduled to begin at 4:30pm. Many other former clipper racquetmen worldwide and coaches are expected to be on hand to celebrate the happy occasion.
A gathering of the fellas is also scheduled for Monday, December 21st 2009 at Smith & Wollensky of Manhattan. First toast is scheduled for 7:30pm.
It what many consider to be a stunning turn of events, Russian Nikolay Davydenko fought his way to the championship at the ATP World Tour Finals held in London 11/22 - 11/29 defeating Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-4. (For full results, click here)
The 28 year old Davydenko not only used his characteristic baseline consistency and cat-like quickness around the court to work his way through the competition, but also unveiled an unacquainted willingness to attack and finish points at the net. In fact, Davydenko, who had been known to flash one of the tour’s worst volleys, strikingly similar to former Clipper netman, Ton Pham, was able to show vast improvement in the areas of touch and decision making at the net. It was this net play that surprised top oppenents and lifted Davydenko to the title. For his efforts, the Russian, who was described by his opponent after the match as "very strong, very fast, he plays like Play Station" was awarded $1,510,000 in prize money, hopefully not owed to any organized faction back home, and moved up to #6 in the 30 November 2009 world rankings.
Perhaps Nikolay has realized that he needed to make changes to his game in order to compete with the heavyweights of the sport. Ranked as high as #3 at the end of 2006, Davydenko, who has been unable to claim a Grand Slam title in his illustrious career, has seen his ranking decline and his dominance wane.
If indeed Davydenko has made some well thought out, and much needed alterations to his arsenal, I applaud him for that. It is refreshing to see even the best of players realize that change is needed to stay at the top of the sport. In fact, it is a good lesson for all that play. We should always seek to improve and not simply be satisfied with what we currently do on the court...or in life for that matter. After all, truthfully, learning is a life-long process...
As the song goes, ‘Tis the season to be jolly and also one to eat, drink and be merry. Probably not a prudent time to begin a diet right? Well, in an effort that bucks this trend, your old pal Coach Neil Tarangioli and often visible College Racquet Club patron, a man of an endless list of astonishing facts, Mark Keye, have decided to engage in a competition...a battle of the bulge if you will, although not to be confused with the 16 December 1944 - 25 January 1945 major German offensive launched towards the end of World War II by the same name.
It seems as though these two fine men are sporting a few extra pounds as of late. As a result, the two have collectively decided to enter into a friendly wager. The contest my friends is simple. They will compete to see who will lose the most weight by 15 December 2009. Of course, there is the possibility that one or both of these portly fellows will actually gain weight during this period and I am not sure what the judges will rule is if that occurs. By the way, I am not sure if there are judges, but I do know that I would refuse that dubious distinction.
The tale of the tape as of 30 November 2009:
In the red (red for the hair color of course) corner is Coach Neil:
Initial weight: 182.5 lbs
In the blue corner is Mark Keye:
Initial weight: 248 lbs
I have discovered through reliable sources close to the contestants that each is opting for a specific strategy so as to drop some of the chubby. Coach Neil has selected an Atkins program. For those not familiar with the Atkins Diet, it boasts weight loss by eating a strict diet of protein and fat while eliminating any carbohydrate consumption. Coach has had varied results with this program in the past. We shall see. Rumor has it that Mark is opting for a program of moderation. He will try to limit most of everything and be cautious with the sweets.
The competition will end with the weigh in on 15 December 2009 and we shall see who will be eating crow, and who will be taking home the spoils as the winner.
So, if you should run into two grouchy men at the CRC, you will now know why. Let’s wish the fellows the best of luck and see what results in a few weeks. In my opinion, it falls in the category of “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Recently, and somewhat reluctantly I might add, I found myself in the middle of a slightly heated, yet kind-spirited conversation slash debate about the comparative level of the professional tennis player, both past and present. Yes, there I was, trying to enjoy a nice tasty libation, avec alcohol, and a flavorful wheat cracker in combination with seemingly month old brie, when a group of hostile, mostly Indian, Concordia Tennis alumni, began to engage in a lowered-eyebrow type discussion.
Let me go ahead and elaborate a bit before I give you a chance to make up your mind and cast your vote in the poll just off in the sidebar area of this blog. The basic dispute here was whether
the tennis superstars of yesteryear performed better than the current champions of today. Specifically, such names as Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras, and heck, there were even Goran Ivanisevic and Stan Smith mentions, were argued to be better than Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Roddick.
So, in typical, hard-headed, fashion, my old cast of players, and other tennis aficionados attending this gathering, started to spew opinions, verbal jabs, and even some personal insults across the living room, and what was for me, much to my chagrin, my view of the television set.
Some support for those elite players from the past included, better volleys, more accurate serves, smarter and more thought out game plans, better competition and more elite players in the game.
Backing for the current pros included more power, better fitness, improved movement, less variability of the court surface and enhanced training methods including supplements, weight training, and video analysis.
Personally, I feel that there is little comparison between the two and that the current players are far superior due to some of the above reasons and also the equipment used. Simply watching a match broad casted on ESPN Classic or the Tennis Chanel clearly displays that the game has changed and the current athletes are superior, at least in my view anyway. The service is faster. Players are able to move better and change direction easier. Competitors are in much better physical condition and the list goes on and on...
What do you think? Cast your vote in the poll over to the right, in the sidebar, and post a comment in the reader remark section under this post to let your opinion be known.
If you are ever in the Philadelphia, PA area, and are a fan of tennis, do yourself a favor and pay the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center a visit. You will immediately recognize that Ashe Center is a very special place which annually provides qualified instructors, tennis equipment, and positive opportunities to more than 8,500 children, most of whom participate at little or no cost. Using tennis as the vehicle, the programs teach positive, rewarding lessons, building confidence and providing a framework of personal discipline. In addition, Ashe offers a safe haven for children during after-school hours and summer breaks, when they are most vulnerable to drugs, crime and violence.
The center, which opened its doors in 1983, was known as Philadelphia Youth Tennis, but later changed its name to Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education (AAYTE), in February 2003, to emphasize its commitment to these youngsters as players and students, and is dedicated to achieving success both on the court and in life.
The mission of AAYTE is to create powerful opportunities for young people, especially those from under-resourced families and communities, to achieve success as individuals and as active, responsible citizens. "We achieve this mission through innovative tennis, education, life skills, and leadership development programming in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia and at our state-of-the-art Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center."
Of course, there of many places to play tennis, however, what distinguishes AAYTE from the norm is its focus on academic and enrichment activities. In addition to the state-of-the-art tennis facilities, Ashe boasts reading rooms, a computer lab, video analysis stations, and classrooms to serve its mission.
The Ashe name is certainly appropriate. Arthur Ashe, synonymous for courage, is well known for his tennis accolades. He was a three-time Grand Slam champion, United States Davis Cup captain, NCAA team and singles champion and was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Hall of Fame in 1983. However, he is also prominently remembered for his work off the court with respect to civil rights and for his battle with AIDS and subsequent HIV awareness crusade. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993 and his name has been given to the center court stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York. Perhaps, Ashe himself however, would be most proud to see his name associated with the annual Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day at the US Open.
Certainly the youths involved with AAYTE have a solid role model and the proper facilities in place to succeed. So the next time your journey takes you to the Philadelphia, PA area, stop in and take a tour. Ask for Charles "Cha" Goods, tell him Coach Dano sent you.
With the recent pandemic status of the swine flu (H1N1), it is important for those who engage in sports and recreational activities, including tennis, to be judicious in preventing transmission of this potentially harmful virus. Further, it is especially critical that those living in collegiate dormitory housing follow the necessary precautions with painstaking attention.
Like all viruses, the best way to help prevent infection and protect yourself is to follow proper hygiene routines. The following routines are recommended by the CDC and what you can do to stay healthy:
Get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best protection we have against flu. Seasonal flu vaccine is available now and initial doses of 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine also are available with additional doses being produced every day. Please contact your doctor or if you are at college, health services.
Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Stay away from people who are sick.
Wash hands often with soap and water. Remember to wash for 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
If someone in the house or dorm is sick, try to keep the sick person in a separate room from others in the household or dorm, if possible.
Keep surfaces like bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
Throw away tissues and other disposable items used by sick persons in your household in the trash.
Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Some additional precautions for athletes and those in collegiate dormitory housing:
Wash all practice clothes and/or uniforms after each use.
Do not share cups or soft drink cans or bottles while competing or when at home. Many readers will know of a popular game in the college setting called "beer pong". While I do not recommend this activity, I will caution those participating not to share cups and never to drink fluids from any cup that has had a potentially harmful, virus carrying ball, floating in its contents.
Do not share towels.
Wash hands immediately after play and always before eating. Use paper towels for drying hands after hand washing or dedicate cloth towels to each person in the household. For example, have different colored towels for each person. If soap and water are not available, persons should use an alcohol-based hand rub. If possible, consideration should be given to maintaining good ventilation in shared household areas (e.g., keeping windows open in restrooms, kitchen, bathroom, etc.).
For additional information about H1N1 and how to protect yourself click here.
Traditionally, athletes have used heavy resistance lifting exercises to improve strength and ultimately performance. Such exercises would usually be conducted with 85% of the one-repetition maximum for 4 to 6 repetitions. However, with the development of more sophisticated training programs, athletes are combining several methods such as plyometric exercise, dynamic weightlifting and both together, in order to develop explosive movement and power.
Essentially, heavy resistance training and plyometric exercises have been known to improve power in athletes. As a result, experts have combined the two in programs in order to achieve even better results. In other words, programs are now best designed to combine strength and speed to create power. This translates to explosive movement on the court, on the field, on the track or any other venue of competition.
In fact, the latest research indicates that maximal strength levels can be significantly increased by using lighter weights (30% to 60% of the one-repetition maximum) while engaging in highly accelerated movements often simulating the actual motions of a given sport. This type of training is called "complex training" and can lead to rapid gains in power output for athletes.
It should be noted that this type of training is very stressful and should not be implemented for longer than a 3 month period. However, it should be a component of your regimen at times when short periods of training are available so as to best prepare for competition.
For more information, I suggest picking up a copy of "Jumping Into Plyometrics". You will be on your way to a more powerful you.
Unlike years ago, most athletes today have learned that they need to get into the gym and do some form of weight training to excel in their chosen sport. However, one muscle group that is often neglected in training is the core musculature. This is particularly unwise for the tennis player as most movements are heavily dependant on this region. In addition, leaving out the core in your training program may also lead to muscle imbalance and injury.
As a result, I suggest clicking here and reading "Improving Core Strength in Tennis Players" by Dr. Donald Chu, a leading authority in sports medicine and expert in the field of plyometric training. I am sure you will find something here that you will want to include in your next workout.
Due to overwhelming response to the sports drink feature and reader inquiry concerning recovery drinks for athletes, I will suggest that you all take a glance at the following link: Go Energy and Recovery Shakes. This product was also created by University of Florida researcher, the late Dr. J. Robert Cade, and was designed to aid the Florida athlete in recovery from strenuous workouts or competition.
This product not only tastes terrific but contains the precise amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat to assist in optimum recovery. In addition, Go is lactose free, and thus, easily digested while also providing excellent nutrition with over 25 vitamins and minerals included. Go comes in the three delicious flavors of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry banana and is also made in bar form.
It seems as though everyday there is a new sports drink on the market. Essentially, most every beverage company produces some sort of libation in a stylish bottle, with a trendy name, that is supposed to enhance performance. The question is, which one should you choose?
First off, what is a sports drink? I guess the best description would be that it is a beverage designed to assist hydration or re-hydration (prevent dehydration), restore electrolytes, carbohydrates, and other nutrients that can be depleted through exercise or competition. The first sports drink invented was called Gatorade, created in 1965, and is credited to my old friend and fellow Lutheran, the late Dr. J. Robert Cade (pictured below), a prominent researcher at the University of Florida. Dr. Cade and his family have generously donated to Concordia, NY providing the Cade center for worship & church music.
Now lets get down to business. Why not just drink water? It turns out that water alone is not the best means of hydration during vigorous exercise because it shuts down the sensation of thirst too rapidly. As a result, it is important to have sodium in your sports drink. Sodium will enhance the sensation of thirst and urge the athlete to drink more fluids. In addition, adding sodium to water prevents hyponatremia, a potentially serious medical condition where the concentration of sodium in the body gets to low. Sodium, of course, is depleted during exercise. Research indicates that approximately 50-150mg per 8oz of fluid is ideal.
Another key ingredient to the sports drink is the carbohydrate. Research indicates that ingesting carbohydrates during strenuous exercise or competition enhances performance. Thus, choose a sports drink that has a carbohydrate concentration of approximately 3% to 5% or 7grams to 14grams per 8oz serving. Keep in mind that more is not better. In fact, consuming higher levels of carbohydrates can cause GI intolerance and such symptoms as cramping, diarrhea and vomiting. Certainly not what you are looking for while sporting your traditional tennis whites on the court.
Finally, I do not recommend a sports drink which contains caffeine. This can cause nervousness and also promote dehydration.
Below, for your review, I have listed several popular sports drinks and beverages with their sodium and carbohydrate concentrations:
Gatorade 110mg sodium 14g carbohydrate
Gatorade (G2) 110mg sodium 7g carbohydrate
Vitamin Water 0mg sodium 13g carbohydrate
Vitamin Water 10 0mg sodium 4g carbohydrate
Coconut Water 43mg sodium 11g carbohydrate
Smartwater 0mg sodium 0g carbohydrate
Water 0mg sodium 0g carbohydrate
And the winner from this list is G2 Gatorade. Remember to check your labels before choosing your sports drink.
Please to take a few moments on this Veteran’s Day to remember those who sacrificed so much to defend our great country both now and in the past. Perhaps say a special prayer for those deployed around the globe and also for those who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that we may enjoy our many freedoms and the little things we often take for granted.
I tuned in to see 60 minutes this past Sunday. Not just to observe the latest commentary by curmudgeon Andy Rooney, but to see the interview piece with Andre Agassi. I was not impressed at all by the fact that Agassi exclaimed that he hated tennis, nor that his tennis success was unimportant to him, and was rather, his father’s dream. After all, parents living vicariously through their children is not something unusual, especially in the tennis realm and here in the Westchester county area. Quite often, young prodigies are pushed inordinately hard by overbearing parents to the point that fledgling players develop disdain for the sport, and sometimes even their own parents doing the pushing. No Andre, we have heard that story before.
What did strike me as interesting was his admitted use of crystal meth and the willingness of the powers that be connected with the ATP tour, to cover up this infraction. Well, actually, the more I think about this, the less I am surprised. I mean, come on now, Major League Baseball (MLB) allowed, and maybe still allows, wide spread use of anabolic steroids to enhance their product and ultimately increase revenues. The National Football League (NFL) is most assuredly guilty of similar transgressions. Let’s be honest, almost every sport has some degree of illegal substance use associated with an inappropriate cover up. Tennis seems to fall right into rank with the other sports.
Why, one asks, would the ATP want to sweep Andre’s drug use under the rug? Well, the answer may be quite simple. Would ATP brass want one of its high profile players to be associated with drug use? Of course not. With tennis popularity soaring, prize money and sponsorship ever increasing, record crowds attending, and endorsement deals escalating each and every day, horribly negative publicity could derail that luxury liner in the blink of an eye and send the sport into a tailspin. Who knows, fans of the game could be lost forever, maybe sending them to find a new sport to follow, like, oh, I don’t know, NASCAR. Frankly, you have to be a pretty good fan of the game to spend $100 on a bottle of water, a crepe and an over sized tennis ball suitable for autographs at Flushing's own US Open. Many would simply not slide their credit card to support drug addicts playing on center court.
As for me, I like conspiracy theories. Try this one on for size. A highly ranked tennis player is caught using or tests positive for anabolic steroids. The ATP higher ups bring the player in and let him know that he must get "clean" and cease the drug use. He is forced into a hiatus and even misses the most prestigious event of the year, and the ability to defend his title. However, the ATP publicizes this as an injury timeout necessary to heal nagging knee maladies. Oddly, the player returns to the tour substantially less muscular, 20 pounds lighter, without his trademark tapped knees, in the best shape of his life, and yes indeed, playing great tennis.
This is a bit hard to fathom. A highly trained athlete is unable to stress his knees, and is thus unable to participate in repetitive running or cycling yet he loses 20 pounds of muscle when his only activity really could have been to weight train his upper body. Was Jenny Craig involved? The Atkins diet? How did the player come back not needing knee support? How did he stay in such great shape and exhibit super human endurance when he was not able to train on those injured knees? Well maybe, just maybe, it was not the knees that were the reason for the mini vacation. It’s just a thought...
If you are a reasonably big sports fan, you have probably noticed that those paid to umpire, officiate, and/or referee sporting events are under tremendous scrutiny lately. You might even say that there have been so many erroneous calls in recent high profile contests, that the overall grade for officials is pretty darn awful, to put it kindly.
What, pray tell, do we attribute this to? Could it be simply that game happenings have just become too fast, and perhaps too fast for the human eye? Perhaps one could suggest that with the recent cases of officials involved in gambling, that some are ruling incorrectly in order to gain financially for themselves or other parties higher up in some organized crime faction, if there is such a thing. Or maybe it is just that some officials have such grandiose egos that they want to play a bigger role in determining the final result.
Sports aficionados often remark that the best officials are the ones that you never notice. This is probably true. You do not often see a correct call being made and think to yourself, shoot-howdy that was a good call! You do however, regularly here loudly stated curse words, suggestions on where officials can go to, and of course, the old favorite of sarcastic commentary on said officials eye sight, when a call is made incorrectly.
Tennis is not devoid of bad calls. Clearly, a professional sports institution that introduces instant replay, better known as the challenge system, realizes that officials make bad calls from time to time and that bad calls should be corrected. I can live with this. I too have been an appeals judge for tennis matches. It is certainly difficult to be 100% sure of calls when a ball is traveling over 100 miles per hour and the place of landing is not directly in front of you. As a result, I can cut the officials some slack here.
However, what really squeezes my lemons is that those paid to keep order and make impartial rulings often do not know the rules that they are supposed to be enforcing. It seems odd to me that, as a coach, I have to constantly remind officials of the rules that they should indeed know better than I do. In addition, the smugness of many is something I could do without. It’s like dealing with my older brother in that he is always right and I am always wrong, no matter what, no ifs, ands, or buts. Too many officials insist that they are always correct simply because they wear that blue and red polo shirt. I really don’t think so...
I recently viewed the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, being interviewed by David Letterman. Mr. Selig felt that baseball umpires were correct in their calls 99% of the time. That really is not a meaningful statistic, nor one that I care about. What I want to know is what percentage of the close calls are made correctly. I mean, as far as tennis is concerned, anybody can call a serve that lands in the center of the service box correctly, but it is the shots that are close to the lines that determine judgement, or the lack there of.
Of course, in light of recent events, officials have colossal incentive to rule correctly. After all, I do not suppose that any tennis official is looking forward to the beating of a lifetime similar to a WWE superstar Mark Henry (billed as the world’s strongest man shown below) power slam from Serena Williams (resemblance unintentional) if they should make a poor call or announce an untimely foot fault.
Minding my business as I was casually exiting the Crowne Plaza, the hotel I was staying at while attending a recent tournament, another coach said something that caught my attention. Here I was preparing myself to eat dinner, and most likely, a not so healthy selection at Fridays restaurant when an "old friend" of mine (let’s call him coach Steve or just Steve going forward), who coaches a small college program in upstate New York, took it upon himself to take what I consider to be a cheap shot at my program.
As our team was passing by the front desk, we encountered coach Steve as he was arranging checkout. You see, his team did not fare so well in the tournament, a regional event, so, whereas we were staying, he and his squad were headed home. Now that sounds a tad bitter but let me explain...
As our paths crossed, coach Neil mentioned to Steve that he had met some of his players and that they seemed like nice guys. A nice thing to say in a world where compliments are somewhat hard to come by these days, especially in the world of sports competition. At this point, Steve had several options. He could have simply said "thanks" and continued his checkout. He could have offered a similar compliment back, even if he was just trying to be polite and did not really know if our players were pleasant or not. Perhaps he could have simply smiled and nodded. Well, sadly, he selected an option that came as quite a surprise. He said quite authoritatively, "Yes they are, they are American."
Now I have no doubt that Steve’s players are indeed nice young men, and I even bet that he thinks they are. However, I wonder if he really feels that they are amicable simply because they are American. More likely, coach is just a little frustrated that he is looking up quite substantially in the rankings at Concordia and notes that six of our nine players are from beyond our borders. Otherwise he is suggesting that our, and any other, international players are not nice guys based on the notion that they are from countries other than the United States of America, a country that I love incidentally, and a country that I believe is among the best in the world for a variety of reasons. However, that being said, my players are nice guys and they deserve Steve’s respect, or at the very least, the opportunity to be properly judged based on a little interaction.
Now I should mention that I allowed the team to head over to Fridays without me while I went back to the lobby to discuss this in more detail with coach Steve. You see, I felt that there were just so many horrible things that took place here. Firstly, he choose an inappropriate forum to announce his comments. I expect more from a coach or leader. Secondly, what he said and further implied goes against so many things that I will detail below:
Coach Steve represents a college that in its own description indicates "is a diverse learning community that strives for academic excellence in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition." Now I am a practicing Lutheran and certainly not an authority on the matter but I doubt that anything in the Catholic and Jesuit doctrine deplores or condemns international tennis players seeking an education in the United States. In addition, coach Steve’s employer goes on to report that it "is proud to draw students from all over the world, including Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Scotland. It is the diversity of thoughts, ideals and experiences our students bring to campus that makes (our college) such a wonderful place to grow and learn." OUCH! Steve must not have read these statements displayed clearly on the college’s web page before accepting his position.
Well now, I know what you are thinking. You could argue that it is one thing to enroll international students and another to fund their education through scholarship. Ah, but as Lee Corso says on ESPN’s College Gameday, "Not so fast my friend!" The college we are discussing indicates international students on campus received college administered financial aid ($22,216 average). Not too shabby indeed.
Just to add to the discussion, the NCAA chimes in with the assertion that "diversity and inclusion are directly tied to the association's core values and is linked with the NCAA Strategic Plan" and "urges member institutions, athletics conferences and governance groups to be committed to creating and supporting an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds." Oops, I guess Steve in not aware of that clause in the NCAA manual.
Not that I have to defend myself, but what Steve also does not realize is that I have a goal to win the National Championship. In addition, I have an obligation to Concordia, in exchange for my enormous coaching salary, to assemble the best team of student athletes possible regardless of faith, color, or race. I can only speak for myself here but I actually enjoy meeting people who hail from unfamiliar places in the world. I have the opportunity to learn about them and their specific culture. In addition, I have the ability to help them experience things here in this country.
Ok,ok, one last statement from Steve’s college’s mission statement. They "seek to prepare its members for leadership and service in their personal and professional lives to promote a more just society." It appears as though Steve will need to change his approach in order to better qualify as the type of leader his superiors are looking for.
With the release of the Fall 2009 ITA/NCAA II National Rankings, the Concordia College Clippers have been ranked #9 in the the national poll by the ranking committee. This is the second time in their illustrious history that the Clippers have been ranked inside the top ten.
The top 10 includes #1 and two-time defending National Champions Armstrong Atlantic State University, #2 Barry University who defeated the Clippers in the 2009 National Semifinal, #3 Lynn University, #4 Valdosta State University, #5 Hawaii Pacific University, #6 Ouachita Baptist University, #7 University of West Florida, #8 Columbus State University, #9 Concordia College, and #10 Rollins College. (click here for complete national rankings)
The National Doubles rankings were also released and as expected the duo of Alex Grubin and Andrey Boldarev are atop the rankings in the #1 slot. This is the first time that a Clipper team has earned the ultimate ranking.
The National Singles Rankings have also been posted and Alex Grubin is #2 followed immediately by Andrey Boldarev who with his improved play, made a huge jump from #33 last spring, all the way to the #3 spot in the country. The Clippers are heavily represented in the NCAA East Regional Rankings:
4. Raphael Namias
5. Tamas Dobrotka
6. Andreas Lindell
8. Felix Missal Doubles:
A careful review of recent ATP Challenger circuit results, easily done at stevegtennis.com, will showcase a tremendous feat. Our friend and current Queens College, NY head men’s tennis coach, Mr. Craig Schwartz, had his best result to date reaching the doubles semi-final in Calabasas, CA the week of October 19, 2009. In doing so, Craig collected 27 ATP doubles points and saw his current doubles ranking climb to 893 in the world. Certainly no small achievement for the 31 year old Long Island, NY native.
Craig has been actively trying to realize his dream of playing in the US Open and could very well be on his way with continued results like his most recent. Interestingly, Craig’s partner at Calabasas was former Dowling College standout, Gustavo Sanchez, who played for Coach Schwartz during his tenure as coach at DC.
I hope you all will join me in congratulating Craig and wish him well as he continues to play the good tennis.
It seems to me that with the advent of every match played, the tennis etiquette, that was once so important to the game we love, has now been lost in the shuffle. I would say that, with all due respect to the players of yesteryear, the players of today are bigger, stronger, faster and yes, better. However, whereas there used to be a select few players who were known to demonstrate less than proper etiquette, now it seems to be the gold standard.
My feeling is that the game should not sacrifice its etiquette in favor of a higher standard of play. Further, why must this be so anyway? Of course, this is just my two cents, but I believe that tennis club professionals and coaches are simply not teaching and/or emphasizing the development of this tennis etiquette. We coaches and pros must stress proper manners and decorum even before we begin to teach the game skills. Mindsets must be changed going forward to return to a more civilized competition for the benefit of everyone.
For your enjoyment I have listed some friendly reminders concerning points of etiquette that seem to have been long forgotten:
Call the score before each point.
When is doubt, call it...IN! Unless you are 100% sure that a ball is out, you must play it as if it is good.
Do not interrupt play on other courts. This includes the using of loud and/or bad language, unnecessarily hitting balls onto another court and unnecessarily entering another court.
Wait until the point is over before entering or crossing a neighboring court. Always remember to cross the court at the net.
Alex Grubin and Andrey Boldarev won the ITA/NCAA II National Doubles Championship and will be ranked as the #1 doubles team in the NCAA II. This is the first National Doubles Championship for the Clipppers. Alex won the National Title in singles back in 2007.
Coaches Rockhill and Tarangioli traveled to Mobile with the players and a good time was had by all except for the below normal temps just reaching 60 degrees when it should have been in the 80's. Of course, I still had the AC on full blast thus doing away with all free radicals in the suite and forcing Coach Neil (or as it was written on the hotel reservation, Coach Greg), into his tent of 10 blankets on the floor for his night's rest. This does drown out the snoring a bit...thank God.
The fall season is now over and the guys will be getting ready for final exams and taking a nice break from the courts for the most part. As for me, I am looking forward to some additional free time and getting back into the gym.
Also, I am on the recruiting trail looking for one more player for next semester. With the right addition we should be able to make a solid run at the NCAA II Team Championship in May 2010. When I started at this I had three major goals in the athletic area: 1. To win the National Championship in singles 2. To win the National Championship in doubles and most importantly 3. To win the National Team Championship. So far 2 of 3 have been accomplished. Keep the faith everyone!
I got involved with Concordia Tennis as a way to honor my parents who were both professors and coaches at the college back in the 1960's and also to give back to the program that provided so much for me.
I started with a dream of taking a team to the National "Sweet 16". However, once we got there and I saw what it took to win a National Championship, it looked possible and that became my goal. I thought for a long time that I must have one. However, over time, I realized that it is more important to focus on building champions rather than winning championships and that relationships are far more important than achievements. Thus, a stronger purpose became clear. I am here to love, serve, care for and lead my teams...
"I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters, and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others he has placed in my path." - Ben Stein
"You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy." - Arthur Ashe
“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.” - Knute Rockne
“If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven't done anything today.” - Lou Holtz
"The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender." - Vince Lombardi
"The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break." - John Madden
"Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
"Success is a journey, not a destination." - Arthur Ashe
"Champions keep playing until they get it right." - Billie Jean King
"Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play." - Mike Singletary
"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden
"The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that's the day you start to the top." - O.J. Simpson
"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." - John Wooden
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
"If you want to be good, focus on making yourself better. If you want to be great, focus on making yourself and your team better." - Jon Gordon