| By Clark D. Ruiz II

In this column, I wanted to share the thoughts and words of a current NCAA Division I player whose college tennis experience will surely provide you with food for thought and guidance on the importance of team dynamics.

When you make the decision to play collegiate tennis, you might not realize it, but for the next four years, the members of your team will be the ones that you share a large majority of your college experiences with. Now, coming from the world of junior tennis, you may not really view tennis as much of a “team sport.” I mean, if you were able to get through junior tennis and be successful on your own, of course it’s certainly possible to get through college tennis the exact same way. However, that may not provide you with the best college experience you can have.

When you decide to play college tennis, you are choosing to play on a team. This word is very rarely associated with the game of tennis, as the sport is played more individually on a professional level. Of course there are team competitions, but at the heart of professional tennis, success is most often achieved individually. However, in college, you are presented with the opportunity to be a part of a group of people, working towards the same goal. Playing on a team comes with certain dynamics that play a large part in the success of that team in their season. When you’re on a team, you have more to worry about than just your tennis game. You begin to forge relationships with your teammates, and how you interact with them on and off the court can often affect your performance on the court.

I have played college tennis for two going on three years now. A large part of my decision to attend the school for which I am currently playing for, had to do with the people who were going to be on my tennis team. For me, it was very important that I found a team that I not only fit in with, but that I felt comfortable, and with whom I could see myself being very close. In my two years of college tennis, I have become friends with a group of individuals who have always supported me on and off the court, in good times and in bad. At any given time, I have been able to rely on my teammates to encourage me during moments of triumph and keep me determined during moments of defeat. Until I became a member of my college tennis team, I never knew that having the unwavering support of seven other people could mean the difference between suffering a tough loss or pulling off a spectacular win.
Is team success entirely dependent on those team dynamics? Not completely, but I have found that having the solid support of your team behind you, individuals who are going through exactly what you are going through on a daily basis, can mean a whole lot sometimes. This year, my team won our conference, and made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in quite a few years.

For a lot of teams, making the tournament is almost a given, but for a team from a smaller school like mine, it is sometimes perceived as a little bit out of our league. Despite that view, we were collectively determined to prove our doubters wrong. I have to say, the bond my teammates and I share with one another had a lot to do with our victory. We played a team that we had suffered a heartbreaking loss to in our regular season.

We were able to overcome that loss, and three out of our six singles matches were able to come back from at least a set down, to take the championship. Those of us playing, as well as those of us watching, were cheering relentlessly for each other, constantly making our teammates aware that they had the support of their team behind them the entire time. Again, it’s certainly not everything, but it makes such a difference to have a positive team dynamic fueling your determination to succeed. And it makes victory that much sweeter when you’re able to celebrate your success with great teammates who also happen to be your best friends.

The story above is just a very small sampling of the life and goals of a collegiate tennis player. The leap to the collegiate ranks marks a huge step in one’s life journey. You must be able to handle the pressures of collegiate life, balance your play on the court, and always remember to never lose sight of the major reason you are at a particular school, to advance your education.

As the author did in sharing her experience, I too urge you to forge a strong bond with your collegiate teammates both on and off the court. Those same teammates are, or once were, in the same boat as you, and some of your veteran teammates could play the role of both mentor and friend as you further your collegiate tennis career.

Clark D. Ruiz II

<p>Clark D. Ruiz II is founder of <a onclick="window.open(this.href,'AdvantageTennisStrategiesLLC','resizable=yes,location=yes,menubar=no,scrollbars=yes,status=yes,toolbar=no,fullscreen=no,dependent=no,status'); return false" href="http://www.advantagetennisstrategies.com">Advantage Tennis Strategies LLC</a>. He may be reached by phone at (917) 991-0088 or e-mail <a href="mailto:clark@advantagetennisstrategies.com?subject=Re%3A%20Long%20Island...@advantagetennisstrategies.com</a>.</p>