by Stephanie Cook '12
If you want an international experience, you need look no further than Catawba College's men and women's tennis teams. Thanks to the addition of some new recruits on both teams — six new guys and seven new gals to be exact — you'll find nine different countries represented.
As a player on the women's tennis team, I find the diversity very exciting! I took some time to interview my international teammates, both new and returning, and wanted to share what I learned about them representing their nations both on and off the court here in the U.S.Head Coach for the men and women's teams Jeff Childress can be credited with recruiting the players. He notes that all of the international students on the team "were very strong students coming out of high school and have always done very well in the classroom."
When asked how he was able to recruit such a diverse group of players to attend the college and compete as the Catawba Indians, Childress claimed, "Through a lot of e-mails and a lot of phone calls. We had three things the players were all looking for: a quality tennis program, a quality tennis facility, and a strong major each were interested in. I also think our returning players do a good job of going out of their way to make the international players feel comfortable."
Being a returning player on the women's team, I would like to think we all have done well with this task!
All of the fellow players I interviewed were very interesting to talk with not only for their unique accents, but also for the different answers I received from each of them and their enthusiasm.
The first player I had step into my office was my new friend Marcel Haegele, a freshman on the men's team who is considering a major in Information Systems. Haegele hails from Stuggart, Germany, and attended the prestigious Bolletierri Tennis Academy for four years in Bradenton, Fla. while training and competing as a junior player. If you are unaware of this well-known training facility in South Florida, just think tennis boot camp. Literally!
Haegele gave me his typical schedule while he was a member of that elite program for four and a half months. He explained how five days a week he would wake up at the crack of dawn to go to conditioning from 5:15 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. After intensive running, it was time for tedious drills until 8:30 a.m., when it was time for him to attend his intensive English course that started promptly at 9:00 a.m. When that course ended at 1:00 p.m., it was time to scarf down some lunch, and then head back out to the court for more drills and match play until 4:30 p.m. To top it all off, another conditioning session was held between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.! Busy day, huh?
When Haegele was asked if he enjoyed his time at Bolletierri, he explained, "Yes and no. Altogether, I learned English and became more independent. I was unable to see my family unless I went home for summer vacation or Christmas. My game also improved." Well, let's hope so!
Another newcomer who is from outside the United States on the women's side is Leah White. She is from Charlottetown, Prince Edward, Canada and intends to major in History. When asked what her overall vibe of the women's team was, White quickly answered, "It is good. The girls are really dedicated. I think the team is looking forward to doing better than they have in previous years."
White expressed her freshman year so far as being "really busy with a lot of stuff going on," but she says she is enjoying herself. Her goals for the season include improving her game to compete at a higher level and learning to work in a team situation, which is one she has not experienced before when living in Canada. Watch for White's first serve this season, which she says is her favorite shot.
One of my good friends, Jess Goodall, was able to give me some of his valuable time to answer a few questions. His home is Johannesburg, South Africa and he is a Biology major who plans to work in Forensic Studies for his career. He was a student at Catawba last year, but was unable to compete for the Tribe due to playing in professional tournaments before he arrived in Salisbury. He says he is more than ready to compete this year and thinks the men's team will be very strong this season.
When asked how he came across Catawba, Goodall explained that while he was playing the Futures [professional tournaments] in Europe, "...a college scout gave me names of a whole lot of colleges in the States. I applied to all of them and got accepted to each one. I decided Catawba looked like the best."
Goodall says America is quite different from South Africa, but insists it is "a good kind of different." He says he enjoys the culture and really likes the southern hospitality present in Salisbury. Even though he started playing the game later than most competitive players [at age 14 since he was an avid swimmer before], Jess says he "picked up the sport really fast." I am very excited to see him compete this year due to his intensity level on the court and his beautiful strokes. He will be a tough challenge for any opponent he plays.
I have been so fortunate to be a member of the same team for three and a half years as my good friend Vanessa Silva, a senior from Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Unfortunately, Silva will be graduating a semester early and will only be competing in the fall season. Nonetheless, I am very happy to be able to play nine more matches with her as a member our women's team. When asked what she has learned about being in America for more than three years, Silva says: "I have learned to be more responsible, to cook, to do laundry, and to speak better English. I learned American people are more individualists than most of the other people in the world. I have also learned to control my money since I am here [in America] by myself. If I don't control it, who will?!"
Silva notes that her favorite part about the Catawba tennis program is having a really good comfort level with everybody involved. "I like the environment we have. I like that everybody is always trying to help each other out not just at tennis, but improving as people also." She says she is ready to graduate and continue on with the next chapter of her life, where she will be go back to Brazil until next fall then return to the States for graduate school, preferably to Florida due to its warm climate. However, she expresses that she has enjoyed her time at Catawba and has many wonderful memories she will take with her from Salisbury.
Last but not least, I was able to have an in-depth conversation with Matthew Nicholson, a freshman from Kariba, Zimbabwe who plans to major in Sports Management. The lanky freshman chose Catawba over Francis Marion in South Carolina, a team that had four different players from Zimbabwe on the men and women's sides combined. He informed me he was very pleased with how Coach Childress was very speedy when replying to his e-mails and that the college had very good and quick communication with him and his family. These two factors helped him make his choice to come to Salisbury.
Nicholson says his first impression of Catawba so far is "pretty small so I am able to interact with people a lot closer than I was expecting. I thought classes would be of 35-40 people, maybe more. Everything is neat, including the landscape." When asked about his reaction to the American people, Nicholson quickly stated," The culture is a big change. The people seem very friendly and are very talkative. People I don't know will smile at me and say hello when I walk by them. We don't do that in Zimbabwe." Hopefully, he will grow accustomed to the southern hospitality that is present here in Salisbury as Jess Goodall, his teammate, has.
Both teams are expected to excel this season with new talent and a good work ethic that runs throughout both rosters. The 15 players on the women's side include: Kasia Zielinski (Erie, Pa.), Vanessa Silva (Rio de Janiero, Brazil), Jennifer Dameron (Siler City, N.C.), Maggie McKee (Mt. Airy, N.C.), Candace Hall (Denver, N.C.), Stephanie Cook (Alpharetta, Ga.), Megan Kittel (Fairfax, Va.), Kim Renspie (Tampa, Fla.), Nicole Boyle (Vienna, W.V.), Taryn Jenkins (Lexington, N.C.), Hannah Kovach (Salisbury, N.C.), Olivia Myers (Lexington, N.C.), Ally Prior (Raleigh, N.C.), Alex Shandera (Chambersburg, Pa.), and Leah White (Charlottetown, Prince Edward, Canada). The 13 on the men's side are: Tom McCormack (Winchester, England), Thomas Mitchell (Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada), Corey Eldridge (Sewell, N.J.), Alex Kalmbach (Mason, Ohio), Uri Yarkoni (Sde-Darburg, Israel), Jess Goodall (Johannesburg, South Africa), Alex Macdonald (Lowen Hutt, New Zealand), Kevin Budrawich (New Canaan, Conn.), Marcel Haegele (Stuggart, Germany), Pierce Hoover (Durham, N.C.), T.J. Lane (Lexington, N.C.), Matthew Nicholson (Kariba, Zimbabwe), and Jordan Pomrenke (Vienna, W.V.).
I encourage you to come out to a home match to support the Tribe and see these players, new and returning, hone their skills and dominate!
PHOTOS: An International Experience: Catawba Tennis
Stephanie Cook is a member of Catawba's women's tennis team and is completing a practicum this semester in the College Public Relations Office.