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...
Where did the week go? Time just seems to keep passing faster and faster. Perhaps a sign of getting older or something. In any case, we are back in NY. Certainly nice to rest in my own bed and see my family. Not to mention a nice serving of porridge at matrix this morning.
We concluded the trip with a 3-1 record. Not a shabby start considering the competition and the adjustment to the out of doors. We were able to sweep #33 Flagler 9-0 on Thursday. It is never easy to win 9-0 but we actually needed to. If you want to be among the best in the country, you must win in impressive fashion and not let dangerous teams hang around and sneak points out here and there. The good news is that our scores were perhaps even more impressive vs. Flagler than some of the teams that are ranked ahead of us by the ITA. We will get our chance later in the season to play some of these teams and we simply must cash in these opportunities to move up.
Friday was a big one for us. We played #1 Armstrong Atlantic, the defending NCAA D2 champions and as I have said before, the best program in the country in my opinion. I suppose that I knew that this would be a tall order for us at this point in the season but I also knew that I would learn something if not many things. I was not thinking that this was a David vs. Goliath situation this year but it turned out so. This time, however, David was outmatched 8-1. One could enjoy the symbolism in the parking lot as we arrived for the match in our rental vans to see AASU's mode of transportation, or as I like to call it, the Bags of Cash Mobile...
On this day AASU would demonstrate why they are what they are. They always seem to play very well against us and I like to think of that as a compliment. It would be very easy for them to take us lightly and let us hang around in the match but they didn't. They start fast, they play hard, and they don't stop until the match is over. It was good for our guys to see this. I have been preaching this for a long time but it never seems to make sense to the players until they see it. We need to follow the approach of this team and play more like this team. We have the talent to be successful. I am so tempted to refer to what has been done wrong but our efforts are better placed so as to move forward with what is right. I suppose that we could have been better at this point if we had bought into the work from day one but a stronger commitment at this point will only help us to get closer to our potential. I will take responsibility for what we are at this point. I am going to make sure that this team plays to its potential this year and every year going forward. I really like my team! I know that they are capable of great things. I hope that they believe so too. I think they do. Of course, talk is cheap...actions are not.
We now have a slate of matches versus local and conference opponents. This is an opportunity to work on our weaknesses. Certainly the competition is not as strong locally as it is when we travel but this does not mean we can take the competition lightly. We absolutely will not. We need to play at 100% if we want to improve otherwise these matches will actually hurt us and prevent progress. I look forward to implementing new strategies and getting better. We will get another chance to prove ourselves when we travel to West Florida at the end of the month.
Thanks to the players and Coach Neil for the enjoyable trip. 3-1 is a successful trip with wins over strong teams and a good start to the season. I am excited for the rest of the season.
I was certainly pleased that we missed the NY snow storm and that the snow mostly melted by the time we arrived home. Also, I was sad to have missed UK's big upset over the Florida Gators yesterday as we were flying the friendly skies. It has been a tough season defending the championship for my Cats but this certainly made for a happy day! Go Big Blue! #BBN.
Our spring trip, and I use the term "spring" loosely, not that it is actually spring even in Florida, has started pretty well with two wins. Temps struggled to get out of the 40's for the first few days in the sunshine state but at least there was indeed some sunshine to go with the cold, windy days.
We were able to sneak out a win at Embry-Riddle Monday, the NAIA's #1 ranked team. This is always a difficult match being our first day out of doors playing tennis. In addition, ERAU always has a great team with players that are willing to do the work up and down the lineup. I was pleased with most of the play as I really just was looking for the team to compete well, win or lose. Well, I wanted to win too...We always seem to get exactly what we are looking for in the ERAU match. It is always competitive, the conditions are fairly tough, and ERAU always fights for every point which makes us do the work so as to prepare for the matches to come. I am so thankful that we are able to play this match and always enjoy chats with Coach Paschal who is a good guy and a great coach.
Our second match of the trip was a good one. With a quick turn around time wise, as we returned to the condos after 9pm Monday night, we played and defeated Augusta State, the 9th ranked team in NCAA D2. It was nice to be able to play this match close to "home" here at Flagler College and early in the day at 9:30am so as to have some free afternoon time.
Wednesday was a day off so to speak although we did spend some time on the practice courts to get better. I hope that we did and continue to do so. I did a little sight seeing with Andrey as we headed over to the St. Augustine lighthouse and took some photos and got a nice history lesson. We ended the day with a team dinner cooked up by Chef Tarangioli. Delicious baked ziti with garlic bread was served and we are all certainly carbo-loaded for the near future for sure.
Up early today with a visit to the complex gym. Workout creativity reigns supreme as there is not a lot of equipment to work with. That being said, I give a shout out to all the old timers that are there and putting in the time. I like being called "young fella" as well. I did break down and make a purchase at GNC as I really needed a protein fix. I hate to support this overpriced retail organization but I had no choice. GNC SUCKS!
We will head over to Flagler, who is #33 in D2, for a 2:30pm match. We have a lengthy history with Flagler which began with only losses. However, in recent years, we have come out of my favorite place in D2 tennis with wins. I have pretty much made it known that I will be the next coach at Flagler if they will have me.
Friday we will be taking on Armstrong Atlantic, the #1 ranked team in D2. This is a great challenge as, in my opinion, this is the best program in the country. I always look forward to playing this team as, for me, they are the standard and the measuring stick. These guys just flat out do it better than I do and I really want to get into their class. It is difficult to be on that level this early in the season, but I really like my team and will certainly learn things from this match.
I will be back later and hope to have good news for you.
We have been greeted not so warmly here in the sunshine state. It seemed a little odd to head off to our first practice in the out of doors with temperatures in the low 50's. In addition, much like New York, it was also quite windy. However, this mattered not to the players who were ready, willing and able.
I often say that some things are worse for the coaches. This is one of those things. For me, it would have been much better to play rather than to watch. The players had little trouble adjusting to the conditions which is a terrific indication of what I hope is to come. To look so sharp after a long day of travel and in the weather elements is a credit to the mental toughness of the players and shows me that they are ready to compete. I know that this team as a whole feels the lack of respect from the ranking chair and committee and has a mission to prove it's case.
We were able to grab a decent meal at Outback and get some grocery shopping done before retiring to our condos. We certainly need a good night's rest which would have come earlier if not for Benas Majauskas' "extreme energy" and subsequent need to order everything on the menu. It seems as though Sunday will be slightly more favorable for tennis and we have two practice sessions planned. We will travel to Daytona Beach to play Embry Riddle on Monday. We always like to start the trip with an NAIA opponent as preparation for the NCAA matches. ERAU is always a strong and well coached squad and this year is no different as they are ranked #1 by the NAIA.
In any case, I must now go on a quest to find a GNC type store to get some protein. I really hope I can avoid GNC (because it sucks) and it's absurdly high prices as perhaps there is another option here by the beach mall. Then off to the gym.
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