Happy 2020 Everyone!
Excited to be back and ready for the main event to begin. Dress rehearsal is complete and the show is about to begin as we head into the opening round of the dual match season. Four men’s matches highlight the MLK Jr. holiday weekend with a Saturday doubleheader against UAB & Chattanooga and another twin bill on Monday against Samford & North Alabama. First serves will be struck at 1pm and 6pm respectively.
Since last Spring ended in Lake Nona, Florida at the NCAA Championships, and more specifically at the doubles final for All-American honorees Patrick Kaukovalta and Mazen Osama, a few new things emerged over the summer and fall with regards to our coaches, player roster, support staff, dual match fan experience and a couple of other tidbits. Here’s the full rundown:
▪ Dimi Kutrovsky and Andrew Goodwin filled assistant coaching positions as Robbie Weiss and Lalo Ugalde both accepted head coaching positions at Clemson (Robbie) and UT-Permin Basin (Lalo). Dimi is originally from Sofia, Bulgaria and played college tennis at the University of Texas where he became the all-time winningest player in Longhorn history with 230 combined wins in singles and doubles. Andrew, also known as “Goodie”, is from Atlanta, Georgia and most of you remember this tenacious and spirited player when he competed for the Crimson Tide in 2014 and 2015. Both guys are tremendous fits for our program and it has been a pleasure working alongside with them this year.
▪ Two freshmen moved into a pair of vacant lockers this summer. Avi Shugar (as in Sugar), also known as “Shug”, and Marcelo Sepulveda Garza, aka “Mar-chay”, began their Alabama careers. Avi is from Eugene, Oregon and trained with my good friend Aaron Gross at the University of Portland. Marcelo is from Monterrey, Mexico and moved to Tuscaloosa from Clearwater, Florida where he trained at Guizar Tennis Academy for the past 5+ years. Both guys were welcomed as little brothers rather seamlessly and have been tremendous additions to the program.
▪ “Mama” Katie Wheeler, our athletic trainer, now has a full-time intern working with both men’s and women’s tennis. Sash-sha Collier is from the islands, as in O’ahu, Hawaii, after she earned her undergraduate degree at Alabama, returned home for graduate school at the University of Hawaii and now back to Tuscaloosa for her internship. So before Tua, there was Sash, and now we have Sash again. Mahalo!
▪ Our program made huge strides the last couple of years under the direction of Evan Van Nostrand, our fitness coach. Van accepted a position for Coach Saban as Assistant Director of Player Development last Spring and passed the reins over to Ashton McLeod, a bright, young and muscular dude from Tuscaloosa who is equally determined to keep our guys in top physical and mental shape. Mill!
▪ The man behind our website and social media platforms is still Zach Rhodes (who has quite the 3-point shot), but this year he will be assisted by Allson Koerbel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Allison is a devout Steeler fan (love it as I grew up a huge Steel Curtain fan) and getting her first look at tennis. Haley Peterson, a San Diego State alum like me, earned a full-time staff position with our athletic department after assisting Zach last season and now covers Women’s Golf, Track & Cross Country and Football.
▪ Team dietitian Rainey Gerald was promoted to a new full-time position with football. Lauren Cave, who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Nutrition at Alabama, began making her immediate impact with the team last Spring and Fall. The team is blessed to have incredible nutritional support and resources second to none. Lauren has made sure these guys stay away from the fast food and soda pop and consume the best and freshest foods available to all of them in the new Student-Athlete Dining Hall.
▪ Chase Harwood from Marketing accepted a new position at Clemson (Robbie has a Bama buddy) and Payne Walker stepped into his shoes from UCF over the summer. Payne has his hands in a lot of sports this year and will be assisted by Jacob McVay at men’s tennis who is in the Sport Hospitality graduate program at Alabama.
▪ Tina Thomas and her unreal facilities crew – Jackie, Letty and Sylvia (a new addition who joined tennis last Spring) – are back with the same spirit, commitment and drive to keep our tennis facility the best looking palace in the country. Nobody can match Tina’s work ethic and her leadership has allowed her girls to lead each other. T is money!
▪ A new job for a former player was accepted this fall as Mazen Osama moved to Chicago, Illinois following his graduation in December. He will coach junior players at the Five Season Club in Burr Ridge under the direction of Junior Tennis Director and former Tide tennis player, Michael Thompson.
▪ New for fans this season will be free popcorn and bottled water, compliments of the Crimson Racket Club. Everyone needs something to munch on and drink at matches so the CRC unanimously voted to provide a little something extra for our fans. What a treat!
▪ New for Crimson Racket Club members will be a season menu of food offerings which will be heartier than in years past. The CRC Hospitality Room will still have drinks and snacks but we felt it was important for members to also have something more filling to eat. So whether it’s chicken trays, sandwiches, wings or some other yummy item, CRC members will get their fill of food and fantastic tennis. To join the CRC please click here
▪ Another new addition for fans will be men’s tennis player cards. One current player will be featured at each home match and free for all fans to grab and collect. A special Senior Trio card (Alexey, Zhe, Edson) will be available on Senior Day scheduled for April 3 vs. Mississippi State. Just stop by the marketing table on your way into facility and grab one for your collection. If you can’t make all of our duals, we’ll have player cards for matches that have been played.
▪ New promotional food giveways will be as follows…Free Moe’s burritos, chips/salsa & cookie on Friday, January 24 vs. Dartmouth and Friday, March 6 vs. Kentucky, Free CRC cookout with burgers and hot dogs on Friday, February 7 vs. Tulsa and Sunday, March 8 vs. Vanderbilt and a Free Shrimp Boil for Senior Night on Friday, April 3 vs. Mississippi State. We will also have Kids Day with a bounce house and kid goodie bags on Sunday, March 8.
So that just about covers all the new things for the season ahead. I may have missed a couple items here and there but one thing stands clear…there are a lot of hands involved in keeping the Tide rising! This is year 8 for me in T-Town and year 25 overall in college tennis coaching. Still learning something new everyday.
With regard to the team and what our goals are I look to what good friend and leadership consultant, Jeff Moore, wrote in his book Strive Together. Simply “working together” is not enough. It was perfect for Henry Ford’s assembly line, but in today’s rapid change economy “striving together” is required because productivity and the ability to constantly innovate have become the keys to success. Winning teams are results-obsessed and any result will do no matter how low the bar, whatever it takes to compare favorably with the competition. These teams are built from the outside in. They are built to project a certain image.
Championship teams, on the other hand, are built to innovate and they are driven by a purpose that transcends winning. They don’t compare but rather compete based on the origin of compete, ‘to strive together.’ Championship teams are built from the inside-out and what Alabama has here on the inside is incredibly invaluable. So many committed, spirited, humble, kind and incredible individuals that strive to make all of us better each day.
So off we go striving together with live video stream and live stats available this weekend and all season long. Click here to watch tennis matches or track scores, but better yet, come join us at the Roberta Alison Baumgardner Indoor Tennis Facility. We will play indoors through our February 7 match with Tulsa before shifting outdoors beginning on Friday, March 6 vs. Kentucky. We will have players autographing posters after the 1pm matches on both Saturday and Monday. Looking forward to sharing and celebrating the season with all of you. Thanks for your continued support of our program and as always…