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Fall Signing Week '10: College Tennis in the Fall
by Kathy Sell Smith, 8 November 2010
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Princeton Junction is a small commuter train station in central New Jersey with direct routes to Philadelphia and New York. During my coaching tenure at Princeton University, it was during that 74-minute ride on the NJ Transit into New York City that I found a reprieve from the busyness and excitement of the fall tennis season. The change in landscape for a couple of hours every few weeks to walk around the city was as much a gift to myself as it was to my team.
The truth is, the fall is a grind. There is a frenetic, 10-week window during which coaches are creating possibilities for the future of their program - both through recruiting as well as player development. On-court and off, coaches are also setting a tone for the championship season. Between integrating new players into the program, hosting and traveling to events, welcoming recruits on official visits, developing the current players, and everything in between, "to-do" lists are long - and days off are hard to achieve.
Despite the busyness, what makes this time of year so unique is that opportunities for the individual are abundant. Just this year, we saw freshman Connie Hsu (Penn) and senior Sanaa Bhambri (N.C. State) on the women's side as well as sophomore Juan Spir (Georgia Tech) on the men's side make their way through the pre-qualifying and qualifying draws into one of the premier college fall events - the All-American Championship. That kind of accomplishment makes an instant mark on college tennis - and on those players' collegiate careers. As a coach, I often saw players - both underclassmen and upperclassmen - have breakthroughs and create new possibilities for themselves both in the team line-up and, in some cases, in the national rankings.
Playing in the Fall
As a player, my memories of fall tennis are of traveling, working hard, and being tired all the time. Between singles and doubles, it is not uncommon for a player to compete in three or four matches in one day at fall tournaments!
My memories are also of opportunity. Every win in the fall was a boost to my confidence and a chance to set new goals for myself. I won the regional championships my junior year having been the #5-6 player on my team the previous year. That one tournament changed who I was as a college player.
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