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The Start of Something PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Andrew Waldrop   

Andrew1When I graduated from high school, I was looking forward to two things: one was going off to college: the other was something more special,becoming a college tennis player. I had recently accepted a scholarship to Mars Hill College, a Division II college outside Asheville, NC,, Earlier that year I had visited a number of different schools before deciding on Mars Hill. I was drawn to Mars Hill for many reasons including location, size, and the members of the tennis team. I truly believed I was a great fit for the school and Mars Hill was a great fit for me as well.

"The tennis team at Mars Hill was made up of nine players from many different backgrounds."

I arrived to Mars Hill in the fall of 2005. I remember going through a wide range of emotions. I was excited to finally be going to college and getting to play on a college tennis team, but I was also sad that I would be moving four hours away from my friends and family. Fortunately I had great support from my family and friends which made the transition to college life much easier. Being a part of a team also allowed for an easier transition into college. Since I already had friends on the tennis team, I didn’t feel that I was truly all alone in a new situation. The tennis team at Mars Hill was made up of nine players from many different backgrounds. Three players on the team were from South America, two from Lima, Peru and one from Montevideo, Uruguay. The rest of the team was from the East coast of the United States. We had four players from North Carolina, one from Georgia and one from Miami, Florida. Having players from many backgrounds made for some very interesting experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the players from South America and getting to learn about their different cultures. Having them around also helped me get through Spanish a little easier. I became great friends with all the players on the team and still keep in contact with many of them today. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the players from South America and getting to learn about their different cultures.

Before the fall tennis season began, each player on the team had to pass a fitness test before he could practice. I remember being very nervous about the fitness test; the last thing I wanted to do was come to school on an athletic scholarship and not even be able to pass a simple fitness test. The test was all timed and you had to do a certain number of push-ups, sit-ups, distance running, etc….in a certain amount of time. After the test was over and I had passed them all, I felt greatly relieved. Now it was time to play tennis.

At the first practice I felt very anxious. I did not know how I would stack up against the other players. Once I picked up my racquet and started hitting, all my nerves and fears dissolved. The fall practices were quite different from the ones in spring. In spring, we had some form of practice Monday through Friday for two hours; in the fall we were on the court every other day, with only half the team. Whoever was not on the court would be in the weight room or on the track. This practice set up allowed our coach to personalize the practices better and work on things with the players in smaller groups. After the fall season started, we did not have much time to prepare for our first tournament. Many of the on court practices consisted of playing matches with the other players while the coach critiqued shots and decisions. Almost all the practices ended with a fun doubles game. These games did a good job of bringing the team together and also helped settle any disputes that may have happened in the practice matches. It was certainly more fun to have on an on court practice rather than a weight lifting or running practice. Our running practices varied from long distance running to sprinting. Some days we would run an abundance of wind sprints, while others we would run long distance, sometimes up to six miles. It all depended on the coach’s mood. The running was not fun, but I knew that doing it would only make me better on the court. After about three weeks Our running practices varied from long distance running to sprinting.of practice both on and off court, I began to notice changes in my game. I was hitting the ball harder and I was not getting tired after long rallies. All the work I was putting in was actually paying off. Once I came to this realization, it actually made me want to work harder. The harder I worked the better and better I got. When the coach told us what position we would be playing in for our first tournament, I was very surprised. For singles I was placed in the 5th bracket, meaning I would be playing in the draw with all the other number five singles players, and for doubles I would be playing in the 1st bracket. When he announced I would be playing in the first doubles bracket, I was shocked, but it showed me that he had seen my improvement and I know he would not have put me at the number one doubles position unless he believed I was ready.

Our first tournament was at East Tennessee State University under dark and rainy skies. We spent much of the whole day waiting, which only added to my anxiety. I was ready to get onto the court and get my match started. In the afternoon the rain finally cleared and after the courts dried, my doubles partner & I were called to take the court for my first official match. My partner was a junior who had played number one doubles in the previous year; needless to say this was nothing new for him. After the warm up, the referee gave the coin toss; we won and elected to serve. I had a pretty good serve, so my partner decided to let me serve first. Andrew WaldropI remember walking back to the service line and being extremely nervous. I was worried I might even whiff the ball on my serve. I was relieved when I hit my first serve in and even more relieved when he missed the return in the net. Unfortunately, we lost the match, but I learned a great deal. Even in a losing effort, I gained confidence. I had proven to myself that I belonged on the court with these other players. Due to the rain, all the matches were pushed back to later in the day, and I did not start my singles match until late that night. I won my first singles match and played well enough to advance to the finals of the tournament. In the finals I actually played one of my teammates who was also playing in the number five draw. It was an interesting match because the coach made the decision not to coach the match because he did not want it to seem as if he were picking sides. I played a very good match and won the tournament! I was thrilled and it even made it better that my whole family was there to see me win.

After the East Tennessee State tournament was over and we headed back to Mars Hill, we had two weeks until our next tournament in Augusta. During these two weeks our coach spent time talking to us and working on things that we did not do so well in the previous tournament. As the tournament approached, the coach let me know that I would be playing the same positions I played in the previous tournament. In some ways I was disappointed, that I was not moved up in singles, but at least I was not moved down. I knew from talking to people on the team that this tournament would have much tougher competition; I was excited to see how I would measure up.

Unfortunately I didn’t win as many matches as I wanted to in Augusta, but I played a really good tournament. Friday was the first day of the tournament; I had an early match that I ended up losing in a tight third set. I was very disappointed that I had lost that match, but I knew

I had to get over it quickly as I had another match in about two hours. After losing the first set in the next match I was very down and didn’t believe I would be able to come back. About that time my family arrived. It completely turned the match around and really pumped me up. I actually came back and won fairly easily in three sets. In some ways I owe my first comeback college win to them, if they had not shown up for the match I don’t know if I would have had the energy to come back. The last match of the day may have been one of my most memorable matches ever. It was a doubles match and the team we were playing was one of the top in the region. I was very tired from my two previous three set singles matches, but I was very excited to have the opportunity to play against a high quality opponent. In college, doubles is played to an eight game pro set so it is very important to get off to a quick start. This is exactly what my partner and I did not do. We got down 0-4 very quickly. Fortunately we started to play better and began to battle back. After about an hour of play we had tied the match at 7-7. After a game that seemed to go forever our opponents held and went up 7-8, and now it was up to me to serve it into a tiebreaker. After a few sloppy mistakes we were down 15-40; double match point. We were able to get in back to deuce and actually had a game point but in the end I was broken and we lost 9-7. Though a losing effort, it may have been one of the best matches I played my whole freshman year, it is one of the few matches that I have specific memories from. That one day may have been one of the longest in my tennis career. I remember feeling very sore, but also feeling a great sense of accomplishment.

After the tournament was over, we only had two weeks left of our fall season. These two weeks consisted of working on things we needed to improve upon from our previous tournament as well as many meetings with our coach both individually and as a team. The individual meetings did much to boost my confidence and self esteem. I remember my coach sitting down with me in the last meeting of the fall and saying that I had completely surpassed the expectations he had for me that fall. When he said this, it only inspired me to work harder and surpass his expectations again and again. As the fall season came to an end, I had mixed emotions. In some ways I was happy it was over because I could focus all my attention on my school work and I could finally rest and relax a little. I knew I would miss it as well; tennis had allowed me to get away from all the worries and stress of school, but now it was time to put all my focus into school. I also knew that spring tennis was just around the corner. I knew that I had three months to continue to work hard on my game; I wanted to come back a stronger player in the spring.


QuestionsIf you have any questions about the college tennis experience or college tennis in general feel free to contact Andrew at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 December 2009 22:31
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