Team Unity

As I woke up Sunday morning and went to hike Bishop’s Peak, I was thinking about how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place and do something I truly love. The season is already half over and could not be going any quicker. It was just six months ago when I met our five incoming freshmen, and I have seen them transform into much more confident tennis players and people.

They came in as timid girls with different personalities, cultures (one is from Belgium, another from Israel) and interests. Yet they have created such a strong bond with each other and have become the closest of friends. This is one of the rewarding parts of coaching: watching the girls grow into their identities and coming together as a team. When I was a player, I never really noticed these subtle changes that I or my teammates made, but now that I am outside the box, everything is much more clear.

Hiking to Bishop's Peak

On Friday after practice, I decided to do a fun activity to keep up the team morale. Because it has been a hard week with finals, Hugh and I have tried to make the last 15 minutes of practice really fun and different. So far we have played a competitive doubles game, a game of tag, a relay race and made sure there was lots of laughing and joking around. This way they can come to practice and use it as a release (from studying) rather than finding it a burden. Our hope is if we make it fun in practice that they can head back to study in better moods, be relieved of stress and feel confident about their tennis games.

For my activity, I had the girls sit in a circle, and I picked someone out. I said something I admired, was thankful for and how she has been a positive influence in my life. She then picked another girl on the team and complimented her. The girls kept doing this until everyone on the team had received and given a compliment. It was pretty emotional, and the girls left practice in a better mood, while feeling positive about themselves and their teammates. As simple as it sounds, it really works. Hearing something nice or saying something positive about someone you care about is really refreshing and rewarding.

The girls carried this positive energy and momentum to our Saturday morning match. We played an easier team in our conference, so we were able to mix up our line-ups and give other girls on the team an opportunity to play. It is good to give everyone a chance (especially the ones who normally cheer) so they continue to stay inspired and eager to improve. The girls are very selfless in this sense that they support whoever is out on the court. It is fun to watch the leaders on the team sit out and support the girls who are at the bottom of the line-up and are normally the ones doing the encouraging.

The girls finished the dual match with great vocal support, lots of energy and improved team unity. I see us continuing to improve and striving to reach our goal of becoming the most improved team in the country!

Living the Dream,
Suzie

A Balanced Life

We’ve all been there: long hours of studying, living in the library, drinking coffee, pulling all nighters… It’s that time of the quarter when students are stressed with writing two 12 page papers, one take home final, and four in-class finals all in one week. Take that and add the stresses of collegiate athletes. Not only do they have to put in vigorous hours at the library, they still have daily practices, conditioning, lifting, individual lessons with Hugh, and extra practice sets with me.

During these next few weeks, Hugh and I try to fit in a balanced practice schedule. We do not want to overwhelm the girls with long strenuous practices, so we modify the workouts. We shorten the practices, intensify them, so they can get in a good quality hit and then have time to hit the books. We call these practices “The Tennis Warehouse” practice because it is very similar to the type of intensity we do when we practice on the indoor court here at Tennis Warehouse. Lucky for us, TW is generous enough to let our Women’s and Men’s team practice on their indoor court when it is rainy. We only get the court for one-hour segments with four girls on the court. Here is what a typical work out would looks like:

We get in a good dynamic warm up before practice, which includes jogging, stretching, plyometrics, and then quick movement work on the ladder. We begin practice with a one (yes only one!) ball warm up (you hit for ten minutes with one ball with lots of consistency, placement, and foot movement). We then put a cone deep in the baseline and the girls have to hit 20 cross-courts behind the cone, before they switch sides. We also do isolation drills, where one person stands in the corner and moves the person all over the court. We make the girls do suicide sprints in between to get their heartrate up in between each set. The first thirty minutes of practice is all about grooving, feeling and hitting lots of balls, while working on footwork, balance, and a low center of gravity. Now we switch the workout to work on closing volleys, moving forward, and taking control of the net. For the last twenty minutes or so, we play singles and doubles points. These workout are short, intense, and with a purpose.

Another thing we will do in the next few weeks is really increase their conditioning and continue to strengthen their bodies with our lifting program. For the past month we have had so many matches that we were not able to push the girls to the point of extreme soreness. Now that we have a few weeks without many matches, we can do lots of sprint work, agility, and shorter distances to get them in optimal shape for our conference tournament (where they will play at Indian Wells in extreme heat for 3 days straight).

One of the conditioning workouts we do is 300-yard sprints. We do 4 sets of these 300-yard sprints, which is very similar to the length of a long point. This way the girls can work on change of direction, increasing their heart rate, and moving as quickly as possible. After we get around twenty minutes of fitness and agility, the girls are off to lift.

With a Women’s tennis team, we are not trying to get the girls bulky or muscular. We want to work on lengthening their bodies, strengthening their core, working on their balance, and especially focusing on a low center of gravity. Their workouts are very tennis specific with lots of repetitions and low weights. The girls do lots of squats and lunges, while super-setting it with abs and core work. We finish the lift with fifteen minutes of stretching to loosen up their bodies.

Now the girls have time to go to the library to study, but will feel confident on the tennis court. Coming from 4 years of experience, I have realized you play the best tennis when you have a balanced life and are feeling good in all areas of your life. This is one of the philosophies Hugh has brought to the Cal Poly Women’s Tennis program; tennis is important, but so are family, friends, education, and a love for life.

Living the dream,
Suzie

In tennis, it’s all about love and memories

When I think back to my college career, I do not really think about the matches I won or lost.

Perhaps I recollect my experiences at NCAA’s with my team and doubles partner in Athens, Georgia and Tulsa, Oklahoma. I remember getting to the finals of Indoor Nationals during a blizzard in Madison, Wisconsin and the feeling of playing in front of 400 crazy fans in Baylor, Texas.

But to be honest, I cannot remember the scores of those matches; the memories I have are the experiences and places I shared with my teammates. The thing I will cherish the most are the people I met, the coaches that shaped my life, and the friends that I will have for a lifetime. As cliché as that sounds, I grew up and learned so much about myself from my teammates and coaches that surrounded me, which is more valuable than any match I ever played.

Me and the famous Andy Gerst

The team headed to Riverside this weekend, which to be truthful, is normally an easier match for us. I expected the girls to be agitated to drive over five hours to play a team they most likely would demolish, but again, the girls made the best of the trip and that is what makes these experiences so much more rewarding and fun. For five hours, 9 girls and 2 coaches blasted the latest country songs, singing, dancing, and laughing the entire van ride there.

When we drove through Los Angeles, we stopped at a Whole Foods to grab a quick dinner. When you imagine a women’s college tennis team, you would probably assume that these girls do not eat much because of their fit bodies and physiques. Well, that is the most skewed statement, especially about this Cal Poly team. On one of our trips, the hotel waitress said we ate more then the UCLA men’s Rugby Team.

Whole Foods has a great variety from pastas to salads, and you can fill it up as much as you want.  Well one of the girls did not realize how much food she put on her tray and ended up with a $24.00 meal. After we saw the price, we did not know what to do, but just laugh it off. This is one of the only times I did not tell Hugh (our head coach) all the details and instead kept my mouth shut (and laughed) as she devoured her expensive meal.

When we arrived at the Comfort Inn, I paired up the girls and they headed to their hotel rooms. Since we have five new girls and five returners, I rotate the freshman with one of the older girls. This way the team can continue to bond and learn from one another. Normally, it ends up that all the girls pile into one room, sharing stories and facebook. It is important to get a great night’s rest, so the girls head to bed around 10p.m. The coaches do not tell the girls a bedtime, they do it themselves. They are all motivated and want to be as prepared as possible.

The morning of a match day, the atmosphere changes. The girls are much more focused; many of them have certain routines they do. Listening to their IPODs, eating a certain meal, while others are more carefree and just try to stay loose. It is entertaining for me to notice these vices and habits because as a player last year, I was always in my own world. I never focused on anyone or anything, but my upcoming match.  I was so extreme with my morning routine that my teammates knew to leave me alone, unless I approached them. Now as a coach, I get to notice the other girls’ strategies and techniques to be best prepared.

The match against Riverside went extremely well. The Riverside team came out on fire in doubles, but our girls remained calm and controlled the situation as best as they could. After we pulled out a close doubles point, our girls came out with tons of energy in singles. They stuck to their best patterns, found their opponent’s weaknesses, and dominated on every court. As we headed back on the five-hour drive home, we were all pleased with our performance.

In one short trip, the girls had been in a van for over ten hours, played a dual match, and still managed to have so much fun together.

As I said, it is the memories they make on weekends like this that they will cherish.

Adversity on the Road

“Adversity makes some people break – others to break records”

The Cal Poly Women’s tennis Head Coach, Hugh Bream, has implemented the concept that we have to be adaptable in all situations. Throughout a tennis match, we do not have control in many things. We do not know what the weather or conditions will bring. We do not know how our opponents will play (perhaps the best match of their life) and we do not know if we will feel at a hundred percent (perhaps under the weather or an injury). However, what we do have in control are our attitudes, effort, and concentration. We can bring this to every match and be adaptable under the difficult circumstances. This is exactly what the Cal Poly Women’s tennis team brought this weekend.

Originally we planned to head to San Francisco on Friday night and play on Saturday, but due to the weather we postponed our trip for a Sunday match against San Francisco and a Monday match against Santa Clara. On Sunday, we headed to Golden Gate Park to play at 11:00am. The courts were wet and we had to postpone the match for a few hours. This is when the girls had to be adaptable. As the coaches roll dried the courts, we had the players stay inside and keep warm. It’s important for them to stay focused and mentally prepared for the upcoming match. A lot of them stayed relaxed by listening to their iPods and laughing with the other girls. Around thirty minutes prior to the pre-match hit, we had the girls do a very long dynamic warm up and stretch to get loose and energized. It is difficult to come out ready after sitting around for a few hours, so the girls did an extra jog, as well as plyometrics and balance drills. After the warm up, we did our ritual talk to prepare the girls. Hugh and I explained that it was going to be windy, it could potentially rain, and the only thing we could control is how we kept it together. We wanted to come out with more energy, more focus, and more vocal support than our opponents. And we did just that. The girls battled with San Francisco and pulled out a 6-1 win. We were excited about the win, but even more excited about playing Santa Clara, who was 9-1 in dual matches this season.

Me and TW playtester, Kana, after a grueling practice

On Monday morning we woke up with some bad news. One of our player’s grandmothers had passed away during the night. It was a very emotional day for her, as well as for our team. To see someone you care about upset and hurting is really hard on all the girls because we are such a family unit. We did our best to support her, but also to prepare for the upcoming match. On top of that, our number one player woke up feeling very sick and we were not sure if she would be able to play.

We took these challenges in stride, met as a team, and discussed the things we could control. We knew some of the girls were not going to be as upbeat or as loud as normal, so those of us who could, would need to bring more team support and energy. We were going to fight out there with all that we had and for as long as we could.

The match began as a grueling, hard, and competitive match as we expected. Santa Clara brought out lots of fans (the hecklers on the hill) and we tried to not let it affect us. The girls stayed focused on their courts, and only on the things they could control. They stuck to their game plans, played tactically, and most importantly with tons of heart. I have never seen a team dig so deep for each point. As I watched us take a lead at 3-2, I was not sure if we would get the win overall, but I had faith in the girls and how hard they were competing. We eventually won 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on one of the last courts, and 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (11-9) on the final court. We had beaten Santa Clara 5-2 on their home courts.

When we hugged each other after the match, our family had just overcome a tough and difficult day. They had faced the challenges together, overcame it together, and succeeded together.

I couldn’t have been more proud.

Living the Dream,

Suzie

Life as an Assistant Coach

This has been one of the most gratifying years of my life, which is honestly a shock to me because I am not playing tennis competitively (the way I used to identify myself in the past).

I was always Suzie “the tennis player” or referred to as the girl on the tennis court. So, when I decided to become the Assistant Women’s tennis coach at Cal Poly State University, I never realized how much growing I would do as a person. But working with the team has taught me so much about myself,  in addition to working with such motivated ladies, and seeing them develop and grow into better tennis players and human beings. As a 23-year-old Assistant Coach, I have been given responsibilities that have challenged me to grow up quicker than I would have imagined, looking back to just last year as I was a player on this team. It has been an inspiring process and I want to share the experiences with other people who love tennis and are interested in learning about college tennis, so from now on until the season ends, I will keep you updated on my journey as an Assistant Coach.

With the season underway, life has been very busy. The Cal Poly Women’s tennis team, currently ranked 66 in the nation, have been traveling and on the go almost every weekend. We are 5-3 in dual matches, which is excellent considering our schedule. In the past month we have played 3 top 10 schools in the nation, including the past NCAA champions # 1 ranked Stanford, # 5 ranked Cal Berkeley, and #7 ranked UCLA. Most schools and teams would be intimidated with such a tough beginning season, but I believe our girls are thriving. Although we have lost all three of those matches, we have gained so much experience from it. I have learned so much from our players, including their resiliency, competitiveness, and their desire to improve. For the Cal Poly Mustangs, we have one goal this year: to be the most improved team in the nation. We may not have the talent that those top schools have, but we do have the work ethic and the love for the game. With this being said, I believe we can truly continue improving all season and become the most improved team out there.

In order to continue to improve, our girls strive to have consistent ACE scores (Attitude, Concentration, and Effort), a concept taken from our sports psychologist Jeff Trouche. It may seem like a simple plan, but to bring great attitude, 100% focus, and putting everything you have in each practice, lift, or match is very difficult. With such a young team this year (5 freshman, 2 sophomores, 1 junior, and 2 seniors) we try to focus on the basics each and everyday. How can we come out to practice with tons of energy, lots of vocal support, and ultimately get one day better everyday? In the matches so far, I realize the girls are incredibly tough and are doing so many things well. The challenge now is to play one more point tougher each game, as well as improving the basics — better first serve and return percentages. These subtle changes are going to add up and help us continue to thrive.

I know the season has started great and we are all motivated. The team is looking forward to continue to grow as tennis players, tennis coaches, as a family, and overall, as better people.

Living the dream,
Suzie

Living the Dream

Hi! I am the newest addition to the Tennis Warehouse team. My name is Suzie and I just graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in Communications. I was looking through the blogs and read Brittany’s about her first week at TW and I wanted to copy her and make one too. In fact, Brittany and I have done everything together for the past two years (including being doubles partners, team captains, teammates, and great friends at Cal Poly) and now I am looking forward to being “newbies” and coworkers together at TW.

My life has revolved around tennis and sports. Both of my parents were professional tennis players from the Czech Republic. My dad’s best win was against Ivan Lendl, and my mom’s was against Jana Novotná, My sister Cat never got into tennis, but she is an avid runner. She even works marketing for Adidas. It seems like I have pretty big shoes to fill, but I am not complaining!

My family supporting me at my last college match

In fact, I believe I have been living the dream this past year. I finished my senior year at Cal Poly making it into the NCAA doubles championship tournament with Brittany in Athens, Georgia and had a top doubles ranking of 22 in the country. We even defeated the # 1 team and NCAA champions from Stanford, who ended up playing in the U.S. Open this year. After school ended, I played professional money tournaments with another blogger Andy (AG) through the Pacific Northwest, where I traveled and played tournaments with all of my best tennis friends. I even triple crowned my favorite tournament (which means I won the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles events) in my hometown, Tacoma, Washington. The best part of it was I could keep all the prize money because I was done with college tennis and not an amateur anymore. Let’s just say I went on the biggest shopping spree and hit up all my favorite stores! However, at the end of summer I had a tough decision to make: what should I do with my future?

Myself, Andy, and Brit at NCAA's in Athens

I was offered the assistant coaching job for the Cal Poly women’s tennis program, but I was hesitant because I really wanted to work at Tennis Warehouse and begin my career as well. The heads at TW and the head coach at Cal Poly met with me and we made the best compromise, I would be able to do both. I am still not sure how I am doing two jobs (an assistant coach at a Division I University as well as the Information Product Coordinator at TW) but I am managing thanks to the generosity of the TW staff and my head coach.

Here’s a schedule of my hectic day: I wake up at 6:00am and get to Cal Poly at 6:30. For an hour, I condition the girls who failed our fitness test, so I put them through a vigorous cardio work out. At 7:30 I begin an hour individual practice with two players and myself. From 8:30 – 10:30 we have team practice, where all ten players compete, train, and get ready for our upcoming season. At 10:30 we head to the gym and either lift or do conditioning. By 11:30, I head into the office and plan tomorrow’s practice with our head coach. At 12:00pm, I shower, eat lunch, and drive to TW. From 1:00 to 6:00, I work at TW. My job as the Information Product Coordinator consists of sharing my product knowledge and educating our employees through clinics. I also get to play-test and wear new products. I never realized how much there is to know about tennis, including all the different types of racquets, new technology, strings, and the upcoming products. By the time 6:30pm comes along, I am wiped out. I head home and am in bed at about 9:00pm. Soon I wake up and start my busy day all over again!

Part of my job description is to explain the products to our employees at Tennis Warehouse. I have decided that whenever I run a clinic for our employees, I will write a blog and tell all of you about the products as well. This way you will see what the TW employees are learning about and get a better overview of some pretty cool products. I should have my second blog out soon and I am excited to teach you about some products.

Living the Dream,
Suz