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.
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,
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,