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.
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.