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What I Learned At The NCAA Championships


Once again taking the advice of my tennis mentor, Colette Lewis, I would like to share what I learned by attending this year’s NCAA Division I Tennis Championships held at the University of Georgia. Be sure to check out the fun interviews I did during the tournament on the ParentingAces YouTube channel (click here)!

  • Student-athletes have more heart than pretty much anybody in the world. They are willing to lay it all on the line over and over again for their teammates, their coaches, and their schools.
  • The student-athletes who are not done for the academic year still have to take exams and turn in papers even during this biggest tournament of the year. School definitely does not take a back seat to tennis. They have assigned proctors to sit with them during exams, and I saw many an athlete doing homework between matches.
  • Must-haves if you’re going to be in the stands: sunscreen, hat, refillable water bottle, snacks, stadium seat or cushion.
  • The Georgia DOT desperately needs to build a direct interstate route between Atlanta and Athens! Driving back and forth each day reinforced this one big-time for me. The existing routes all include multiple traffic lights and 2-lane roads, making the commute frustrating at best.
  • If you think your child’s days of eating at Panera Bread and Olive Garden end once he/she goes off to college, think again! When the college teams travel to tournaments, Panera and OG are still their go-to’s.
  • Player nicknames are really fun to try to figure out! Sometimes they make obvious sense (“Tay” for Taylor); other times, not so much (“Sarge” for Alex Sarkissian).
  • Junior coaches, at least the ones around here, really dropped the ball during this year’s Championships. I saw some area junior coaches at the matches but very rarely did they have players with them. It was a missed opportunity, in my opinion. How valuable it would be for the juniors to watch the college matches alongside a coach who is asking questions about strokes, shot selection, match preparation, etc.!
  • Tournament officials are tournament officials. Many of the same folks work junior tournaments, college matches, as well as pro events. I saw quite a few calling matches in Athens who I’ve also seen at my son’s junior tournaments. I spoke with one official who has called several of my son’s matches over the years. She told me that juniors’ reputations definitely follow them into college, especially if they wind up attending a school in the same section in which they grew up playing. She also said, “If I’m calling a college match, and a player challenges a call that I didn’t see made by his or her opponent, and I know that opponent from the juniors as someone who makes fair calls, I’m probably going to rule in favor of that player.” Juniors, take note: your behavior NOW matters!
  • The players like having an official in the chair calling their matches, but they dislike having line judges (that only happens during the semis and finals of this event). They feel they are better able to see and call the balls than the line judges and would prefer to maintain that control over their matches. By the way, players are not supposed to call balls when line judges are present. They can challenge a call to the chair, but they are at the mercy of the line judges otherwise.
  • It is really fun to attend the Championships when you know some of the players and/or coaches. My son had a blast this year, watching his buddies compete for their schools and getting to meet their teammates. He also took advantage of the opportunity to meet and shake the hands of several college coaches, opening the door to future conversations during the recruiting process.
  • Sometimes student-athletes decide to take time away from school (usually in the Fall) to try their hand at the pro tour. The winner of this year’s Men’s Singles tournament, Marcos Giron, is planning to do just that. ¬†UCLA men’s assistant coach Grant Chen told me, “Your senior year, you’re allowed to take the Fall off. It won’t hurt your eligibility, and it won’t hurt your standing. Any other year, it can affect both. This is something Marcos discussed with us prior to the NCAAs, so it was no surprise to [head coach] Billy [Martin] or me or to the guys.”
  • I was under the impression that the winners of the individual singles and doubles competitions – if they are American – were guaranteed a wildcard into the US Open. That is not the case. It is at the discretion of USTA whether or not to award those wildcards. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get to see ALL of these these talented student-athletes compete again in New York this summer!



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