| By Eric Dietsche

This year has certainly been one of the more stressful in my life, not to mention one of the most exciting and scary. All in one year, I have gone from a high school senior, at the top of my game in my high school both academically and athletically … to a graduated high school student anxiously awaiting the beginning of a new chapter in his life, to a green, wet-behind-the-ears college student without much knowledge as to how things would work in this new place.

One week after I arrived at college, I found out that my maternal grandmother had been hospitalized. She had heart surgery six years earlier, and now, her valve was being replaced, since it had basically disintegrated within her heart. I didn’t know exactly what to do. For the 14 years that she lived with my family, I had been her “sidekick.” I was always there for her, and she was always there for me. Now, I felt like I was breaking the deal. All of this occurred at the same time for me, as if moving into college as a freshman wasn’t stressful enough.
I was extremely worried and anxious, since I couldn’t help but think that my most reliable companion was in trouble and there was nothing that I was doing to help her get through it. I would try calling her hospital phone, but by that point, she had become so weak that she could barely form any words to speak with me.
Amidst all of this chaos, I have realized just how lucky I am to be a part of the Williams Men’s Varsity Tennis Team. Although I am not one of the competing members, everyone on the team has been extremely supportive of me and has helped me through these times. They have been helping me adjust to college life and have also been helping me budget my time wisely so that I will have enough time to do all of the things that I want to do, also while going home every weekend to visit my grandmother in the hospital. They have all been understanding, and realize that right now, neither tennis nor academics are of top priority in my mind, since some things, like family, will always just be more important than others.
Being an un-recruited member of one of the top Division III tennis teams has also presented some of its own formidable challenges for me. Coming from the Catholic High School League on Long Island, I did not have that much competition, and I was very close to, if not on, the top of my high school team all four years of school. Needless to say, I was very used to being in control of points and having the upper hand in a match both mentally and score-wise. However, once I came here, I had to make some quick adjustments. The players here are so much better than anything I have ever experienced while playing school tennis previously. They are both power and precision players, which is a phenomenon that is rarely encountered in high school play. They readily switch from offense to defense, and then back to offense, within a single point just to win it. Needless to say, the first day or so took some hard work just to accustom myself to the new level being put out before me, but I believe that I am a good enough player to one day become a contributing member of this team. Although it may not be today or even this year, I have full confidence in my abilities as a tennis player to overcome the obstacles that are being presented to me at the moment and just take them as challenges that will just make me stronger in the end.
So far, being a part of this team, even if I won’t necessarily be a part of the competing team, has been one of the best experiences of college. I get to meet people who are as interested in this great game as I am, and, I also get a great opportunity to work on my game. On top of that, I gain new friends, and a network of players that would do anything for each other. Although hard work and sometimes disappointment are part of the deal, I am confident that being a part of the tennis team will be one of the best things that will happen for me over my four years here at Williams College, since it has already been one of the most rewarding so far in the mere three weeks that I have been on campus.
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>