| By Eric Dietsche

As the college offseason comes to a close and the professionals finish up their first major of the year, we all start heading back to the courts en masse. However, playing in college and trying to get your game to its optimal level is not your only challenge this time of year, especially when you are at a school located in the northwest area of rural Massachusetts, in the middle of the Berkshires. Perhaps an even more formidable challenge to us would be vying for time in the field house. At this time, every team needs to try to get time in there to get their teams ready for competition. We have the track and field team, community programs, junior lacrosse programs and other children’s programs that have time reserved in the only indoor athletic location on campus.

Although we have some challenges to deal with during our training, Williams College offers a Winter Study program, in which students take only one class for a month. Usually, this class will be taught by either a visiting professor, a community member that would be considered an expert in a certain field (for example, we have pottery and glassblowing classes that are taught by community members who own businesses in the area), or a professor from the college who will teach a class that is not within their normal field. We have had a history professor teaching a class on the history of rock and roll, a math professor teaching a class on atheism, and various other professors who are able to pursue some of their other interests and spread that interest to the students during this month-long class.

Given the fact that you, the student, are only taking one class for a month, you have much more free time than you normally would during the regular semester. This time gives us the opportunity to do whatever we would like, which would usually be one of the workouts that we received at the beginning of the offseason (but, of course, there were some other activities thrown in as well, such as extensive Super Smash Brothers tournaments, sledding, skiing, and occasionally, some real work). In short, Winter Study at Williams College offers students a chance to pursue other interests, while not allowing them to completely lose touch with the idea of doing work altogether.

Credit: catorart from FlickrSince we have started training again, we look forward to our spring break trip, which is the opening of the season’s competitive play. The season will officially start again on Feb. 15, at which point, the courts up here will most definitely still be covered by a thick sheet of snow and ice, which means that our first month or so of practice will be a delightful combination of squash court sprints, jump rope and other assorted cardio workouts, such as the new addition of donut runs. This workout, done on a track, involves only 15 min. of running, but it is some of the hardest 15 min. that one has experienced. The 15 min. span is divided up into 30 sec. of all-out sprinting, alternating with 30 sec. of jogging. This gets very difficult very quickly, especially since the first couple of times you do it, you don’t really know how to budget your energy properly, so by about the middle of the workout, you are just dead and cannot seem to summon anything else from your legs or stop the wheezing noise coming from the constricted airway that seems to be telling you that you are just insane for doing this to yourself.

However, by the end of all of this, you know that you will feel that sense of accomplishment that no other feeling in the world can match. You hope that all of this hard work and effort will pay off in the end and make you play like the newly revised version of Roger Federer who showed up this year at the Australian Open and managed to decimate some of world’s best players as if he was playing opening round matches. However, we all know that it is not necessarily how you start the season that will make people remember you, but, most of all, it is how you finish it that will separate you from the rest. All of this hard work is not training for the very beginning, but will instead provide you with the stamina necessary to make it through a physically and emotionally long and grueling few months. After all, the NESCACs (New England Small College Athletic Conference) are in early May … approximately four months after the official opening day.

Eric Dietsche

<p>Eric Dietsche is a senior and valedictorian of the Class of 2009 at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, N.Y. As a five-time varsity letter winner in tennis, he is also a two-time All-League Player. He also won the title of Most Valuable Player in the New York Catholic High School Athletic Association in 2009. He plans to attend Williams College in Massachusetts in the fall where he&rsquo;ll play tennis. He may be reached by e-mail at edietsche@gmail.com.</p>