Jan. 28, 2003
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -
1. Last year was an uncharacteristic year for Lady Tiger tennis in that you did not have much depth. Your roster this year certainly appears to have addressed that concern. Talk a bit about your three returning seniors and the additions that you have made to this year's team.
The returning seniors, Sabrina, Monica and Sam, are the key to the success of this year's team. I say that not only because they will score on the tennis court, but also because of the leadership they are showing to the new players. I am extremely proud of the way they have verbally led the new players to have high goals both on the tennis court and in the classroom. They are willing to show by example, not just by word. The experience they have is extremely important when we get to the tough times. They have been through it and can help guide the younger players. Also, they know we have a chance to be a winning team this year, and they are an encourager to each player in a positive, warm manner.
2. In looking at your recruiting process for the 2003-2004 season, you will have to replace Sabrina, Monica and Sumitra as well as Rebecca Garner, who will complete her degree a year early. When you are out recruiting, what type of student-athlete are you looking to add and what should potential recruits understand about being a Lady Tiger and what is involved?
As I am recruiting for 2003-2004, I am looking for players with a strong tennis background.I must replace a lot of points in the loss of the three seniors. However, just as important to tennis ability, I am looking for young ladies with strong academic credentials and a desire to complete a degree at the university. I would place the next importance on the person -- the Lady Tigers are a very cohesive group, they enjoy each other's company immensely and the camaraderie is unmatched. I tell young ladies they must have respect for teammates, opponents, and self. They must have impeccable behavior on and off the court. The Lady Tigers have built a tradition of being recognized everywhere for good sportsmanship, top academics and a fun-loving team. I want that tradition to continue with the athletes I recruit.
3. A couple of years ago, a project began that involved your home varsity courts. With a total renovation of the entire complex, tell us what you think about the final project and what has it meant to your teams to have a high-quality facility to both play and practice on?
I am very proud of our tennis complex. The upgrade of the facilities makes it one of the premier college outdoor tennis facilities in the country. I believe the team is proud of it and that enhances the desire to do well, both in practice and match play. When other teams come to compete and make positive remarks about the facility, the players can feel the university does care about them and has made an effort to stand out in the Division I landscape. We are continuing to enhance the area with landscaping and, hopefully, one day the upper courts will be equal to the six varsity courts. Certainly, I enjoy working in an environment such as our courts.
4. Your schedule continues to feature a series of tough, regional opponents and this year you start your spring schedule against two of the top nationally-ranked teams in the country. Talk a bit about your scheduling philosophy and how that plays into the Conference USA tournament at the end of the season.
I wanted to schedule stronger opponents this year to challenge the team and also to see where we actually stand against top nationally-ranked teams. My philosophy of scheduling is to challenge the players, but not to overwhelm them. I do believe tough matches won or lost have a learning value. I believe they do prepare the team for the conference tournament, but I also believe winning matches breeds confidence. Coming from a very successful fall season, I believe the team will want to be challenged. I knew this team would be stronger than in the past, but I do not know just how strong we are in comparison to schools that are normally ranked. We shall learn that after the first two matches!!!
5. You usually have one trip to a different part of the country. A couple of years ago it was Texas and this past year you played a series of matches in Bermuda. What is your philosophy in adding trips to different parts of the country and how does that affect your recruiting of international students who want to see more of the United States as part of their college experience.
I love to take teams to places that allow them to enjoy either the beauty of our country or a chance to relax and have fun when away from the courts. Most trips are just tennis, no time for anything else. However, traveling to different areas can be very educational as well as recreational. The team works very hard and I feel they deserve some time off the court in a special atmosphere. Of course, one reason international students come to America is to see it and experience some of the places unique to our part of the world. I believe they appreciate the effort I make in getting them out and allowing them an opportunity they may not otherwise have.
6. You added a Memphis-area recruit to your roster this year for the first time in a while. Given that Kristen Noble was a former Tennessee State Athletic Association singles champion during her prep career, how positive a thing do you feel it is for The U of M as a whole that a talented local player wants to play at home?
Memphis has produced fine tennis players for many years. Some have gone away to other colleges first and then returned to play at the university. Having Memphis talent on the team is important to the Memphis tennis public. They like to see home talent compete and it makes them want to support the overall program. I believe the program is more recognized in the local community when they recognize a local player, who did good in high school. I believe the public then thinks the program must be pretty good if the local best stay at home.
7. Along those same lines, there have been a lot of changes on the university campus lately. As a Tiger graduate and a long-time member of the staff, talk about some of the recent changes and how they affect the Tiger student-athletes (the Fed-Ex Technology Center, the hotel on campus, the renovation of Wilder Tower which will house a new student-athlete academic center, the student plaza, etc.).
I am very excited about all the changes occuring on campus. I believe it shows the university is keeping up with the 21st century. It speaks to the students in such a positive manner to see new buildings, new technology and a beautiful campus. I believe they see the commitment and they want to tell others about what is being done. I know it is a great recruiting tool and will enable me to continue to bring not only top athletes but also top students to the team.
8. College tennis definitely has an international flavor to it now. Talk about what Memphis (both the city and the school) offers to international students and what recruits can expect in a college experience at The U of M.
Probably the first thing that comes to mind is friendliness of the people. I am always told by my student-athletes that people here are so helpful and friendly. It makes them feel accepted and, therefore, comfortable. When one is comfortable, one will learn more and perform better. The university is big, but not too big. The city is big and offers lots to do for the international students. From the experience of my former international students, they feel the academic programs are challenging and provide them with an opportunity to take home a degree that can be used in their home country. They find success in the fields they have chosen for a career and are happy they came to Memphis.
9. College tennis can be difficult in that there is a spring and a fall travel schedule, yet you continue to be one of the teams that the Intercollegiate Tennis Association recognizes as an All-Academic Team. How do your student-athletes juggle the responsibilities of their coursework with the requirements necessary to compete in NCAA Division I college athletics?
First, I believe they come to Memphis with a strong academic background. Then, tennis itself is a sport that requires a great deal of discipline. I believe this discipline transfers to the academic world. They have to be disciplined to use their time wisely and prioritize their activities in life. We talk about being a student first, then an athlete and lastly a social person. Even though we spend a lot of time together as a team, there is time for a social life. As I spoke about the type of person I recruit, team camaraderie plays a significant part in the success of the team academically. Since we are together so much, they are very willing to help each other with academic questions, etc. Because they care about each other as people, they care about each other on and off the court and what they are involved with as person. I allow them to study at the tennis courts during long tournaments, and we have a team laptop that aids their studies and very little time is spent sleeping in the van while we travel.
10. You have a very unique fundraiser for a tennis program. Talk a bit about your fishing tournament and how that tournament benefits your program. How did you decide to offer a bass fishing tournament?
The fishing tournament came about when I heard about another tennis coach who ran one as a fundraiser. At that time, my assistant coach was a bass fisherman. I knew with his expertise, my desire to put it together, the name of the university associated with it, and the location of great lakes near us, we could not fail. The first year proved to be successful and it has become a well-known event in the area for the past five years. The money is used for an assistant coach or for other needs of the team not met by the budget. The tournament benefits my program in that people not associated with Memphis teams are involved and, therefore, we are exposed to a new group of supporters. We are advertised in areas not normal for our general marketing. It is a novel idea that has people asking about the team and the association with bass fishing!
11. Give us a summary of your coaching philosophy and what your goals are for this program. If you could make any types of changes, what would you change and what do you feel are some of the major accomplishments of your program to date?
My coaching philosophy is to help young ladies not only become better tennis players, but enhance and reveal their best character possible. Winning is important, but being the best person one can be is most important. I expect every player to work hard and do her best on the court and in the classroom. I expect each player to treat each teammate and opponent with dignity and respect. Overall, our goal is the represent the university in such a positive way, that everyone is proud of the team. I would change the image of tennis being a "lesser" or "individual" sport, so that it could receive attention from the media, the administration and the public that it deserves. I would want more people to recognize the hard work and dedication the team exhibits both on the court and in the classroom. They are probably the classiest athletes with the least amount of exposure. Major accomplishments of our program include the recognition of our academic achievements, more respect among the tennis ranks, and the national ranking of Sabrina and Monica in doubles. We are a program continually on the upswing and a team always recognized for our sportsmanship.