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...
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