November 1st, 2010 by Ben
People often ask me why I spend so much time working with the ASU team when I don’t get paid for it? I have to laugh to myself, and then remember that they have not experienced what I have in the past four years as a coach. I have coached and instructed individuals for about 20 years now, but nothing compares to coaching a team of players. I will try to elude what the experience is like in the following post. All of the following experiences took place at the Intercollegiate Championships in 2010 in Springfield, MO.
We begin practice for the season in September to coincide with the beginning of the school year. I have a core group of players who were returning, and I needed to make a few additions as well. As the year progressed it became obvious that I would have to have a playoff for the positions on the Men’s team as we have a few more players than spots since we were traveling and didn’t have the finances to bring everyone. So I was forced to do the thing I hate most in my role as coach, break the news to several of my players that they are not going to make the trip to Springfield. I hate it, more than I can really explain. I want so badly for them to have this experience, make the memories and have fun that it kills me to have someone not be able to go. We established an in house tournament and had a playoff for the six positions on the team. I literally couldn’t watch.
Once that was behind us, we made arrangements for 7 girls (one of my girls was struggling with an injury and so we elected to not have her play doubles) and seven guys (one of the guys paid his own airfare and played in the “extra” divisions that are available) to travel the event. We rented two vehicles and my only graduate student on the team was designated with the task of carting half of the team around all week. We randomly split up the crew, and switched people around frequently to avoid getting sick of one another. We all stayed at the same hotel, rooms right next to one another, ate every meal together, and were basically together non-stop for the five days we were in Springfield. All of the kids had class work to keep up with, so they were preparing to play, cheering on their team mates who were playing or on the computer keeping up with their class responsibilities.
As for me, the best description of what a week at this event is like I can give you is this: You know that feeling you get when you lean just a little too far back in a chair and feel like you are going to fall over backwards? Yeah, it’s like that, sixteen hours a day, four days straight. I personally coach every match, from 8:00am to whenever we are done which is typically around midnight. I send the kids out for food for me during the day, and I never leave the club. I watch opponents warm up and the first few points of a match and can coach my player from that information. Sometimes there are two or three matches going on at once, so I run from court to court helping everyone. Every match counts, every win is critical, regardless of the team rank. Each player has different needs before and during their matches, and every personality is different. Some players I yell at, some I encourage and calm down. It is the ultimate challenge as a coach.
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