It’s now official. Now that the Spring Break trips have begun and it is also possible to play on outdoor courts again (at least in the Berkshires—if you’re somewhere further south, you may have been playing outside much longer), the spring season has begun, and the restlessness of the winter has ended. In comparison to the fall season, this one is bound to be much more of a challenge (in fact, due to the level of difficulty of practices, the spring already has been), but it is also bound to be much more interesting and exciting. In the fall, there was a grand total of two matches, but, this season, there are going to be many more, including the national NCAA tournament.
Obviously, included in this new and grueling schedule is the issue of staying healthy through all of it. There has already been a wide range of injuries on the team that everyone is working through, including, but not limited to, shoulder, back and spinal vertebrae injuries, knee, hamstring and ankle problems, as well as wrist and elbow issues. Some of these injuries have persisted since the fall season, while some are new. The increased difficulty of our workouts, like five mile runs outside in near-freezing weather, does not help most of the time, but we hope that this work will make us less vulnerable to more injuries in the future. When we are all doing our four min. plank, our coach and our captains just tell us that we don’t want to peak in our first couple of matches, but, rather, we should peak in early to mid-May, when we have our championships. These workout routines are supposed to allow us to do that, since we are building from our core, which, as I mentioned in one of my earlier articles, is the center of everything. We can channel energy from our core, and, if we learn the proper discipline, we can focus all of our energy in tough matches and outlast tough opponents who may not have as much discipline as we do, since they have not had the pleasure of going through such fun workouts.
In the end, all of this becomes worth it, though, when you are able to walk out on the courts in the spring and play. At this point, we are even in too good of a mood to notice the snow and ice that is still frozen along the fence line. Hitting the ball on a real court instead of playing on an all-purpose surface, like the one that we have in our field house, is such a pleasure. You can have reliable bounces, instead of the ball just rolling when it hits a bubble in the rubber surface. You can also revel in the sun and the wind once again, which is usually seen as a blessing after the first couple of times outside, and then quickly switches to being a curse when you can no longer see due to the blinding glare or when the nice breeze turns into gale force winds that blow hard enough to change the course of the ball even after it bounces.
Of course also with the beginning of the season, come the inevitable questions. One of the most frequent is which team, if any, will dominate the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) (for the teams like Williams College that are in the Northeastern Division), and, on the national level, which team will be best suited to take the NCAA title. Many teams this year have done an extraordinary job of recruiting and building their squad by successfully replacing small senior classes with equally, if not more, talented first year players. With every team posting good wins while on spring break trips, this upcoming season is bound to be competitive and exciting.
Although all of these thoughts will almost inevitably be floating around in all of our minds, the main thing that we still need to focus on will obviously be to improve as much as we can to make our odds of winning and being successful that much greater. It is easy to be distracted by looking at all of the statistics, but those can both help and hurt you. They can lead to certain expectations and they can make someone seem better than they actually are. We must function on the knowledge that, at the beginning of every match, both players have an equal opportunity and chance of winning. What you do within the match is what either is going to make or break you and ultimately decide the outcome of the match.
<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’ll play tennis. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.</p>