Welcome to the start of Division III Week as the MHC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the Sports Information Office teams up to bring you a variety of stories and features from across Lyons Nation in celebration of Division III Week. Today's opener features a Q&A by MHC swimmer Claire Beckett '18, who sat down with members of the Lyons tennis team to talk about the season and their thoughts on being here at Mount Holyoke! Enjoy!
BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE MHC TENNIS TEAM: A Q&A
Every Mount Holyoke student-athlete's experience is different in a number of ways. For the Lyons tennis team, the 2014-15 season has brought about a plethora of outstanding memories and realizations! Here is an inside look at some of the highlights!!
1. How was the training trip to Puerto Rico? Did it have a special significance to you, being from Puerto Rico?
AS: The trip to Puerto Rico had been done in the past for 14-15 years in a row. But this is the first time in quite a while. It has a great significance for me because I can show the team where I come from and they get to meet my family. The main reason is TRAINING! They work very, hard—train and compete, get up early in order to make sure they have time for fun, going to the beach, and some for touristy things. It’s great because the team gets to know me and the assistant coach (Eric Cestero, who is also from Puerto Rico) in our own environments and get to experience the country from a non-tourist’s perspective.
KS: It was amazing! It was very fun but also very exhausting too. I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation after it! We worked really hard down in Puerto Rico putting in two-a-day practices and 3 matches (2 official and 1 unofficial). It was hard practicing and playing with it being so hot, but if we can play in that, then we can play in anything! Along with having fun practicing, we also did a lot of fun activities like kayaking and swimming in the bioluminescent bay (which was one of the coolest things I've ever done!) at night, hiking in the rainforest, and paddleboarding in the bay as well, so it was a nice balance of tennis and other fun activities. Since Aldo and Eric are from Puerto Rico, we got a really local and personal view of Puerto Rico, which was really cool.
MH: The training trip was amazing! It couldn't have gone any better than I thought. We played at least 2 hours of tennis everyday, with 2 matches (which we both won!) around the island. We also did tourist trips daily, such as going to multiple different beaches, see the National Rainforest, El Yunque, and see the bioluminescent bay at night. This trip was very significant to me because, as a captain, I felt that I needed to hear the other player's opinions about going on a spring training trip and if they were willing to fundraise throughout the year. I heard nothing but positive reactions about a trip, and it made the organizational and planning aspect of the trip with Aldo and Eric really fun!
2. What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of playing/coaching a split-season sport?
AS: The national championships are in the spring, while the conference championships are in the fall. Whoever wins the conference in the fall represents the conference in the spring. Spring is still a competitive season with matches, but I am able to focus on development. I can try different things to develop the team and the players.
MC: It is a big commitment in terms of time and energy. But I like the fact that we have two seasons because it really keeps us in shape all year round. It also gives us more time to bond with our teammates. As a matter of fact, practices in both fall and spring make us a closer and better team.
3. Tennis is interesting because it seems to be both an individual, and a team sport at the same time. (You compete as an individual for an overall team score). What are some challenges and benefits of the sport being like that?
KS: I think that tennis being both an individual and team sport makes it even more rewarding! You get to play by yourself or in a doubles team and experience a win or loss that's all from you or from you and your partner. And you also get to be part of a team, which is like a family to me, and contribute to the overall result, so everyone's match matters. However, it can also add a lot more pressure when you're playing by yourself because it's all you and you have to figure out what you have to do to win, and to know that your result could influence if your team wins or loses the match.
4. What is the best part about coaching/being a Division III athlete?
AS: I’ve been at the division I (as an assistant coach at Ohio State), division II (as an athlete in Puerto Rico), and the division III level now. This is a great division because it allows students to have a good balance. It treats student-athletes as both students, and athletes. It treats student-athletes as any other student in the classroom. It provides a well-balanced perspective on both experiences. I try my very best to find a balance between academics and tennis. It’s important for be to find the balance between academics and tennis. If you have an academic conflict, you are 100% a student. It’s important to know that when you are in Kendall (for practices, matches) , you are 100% an athlete., and when you leave, you are 100% a student. I expect a high level of commitment, I demand, encourages, and expect that you give 100%
MC: There is a good amount of seriousness in the sport, but at the same time, it doesn’t require us to put the sport before everything else, such as academics.
KS: For me, the best aspect of being a division 3 athlete is the fact that you can be an athlete while focusing on your academics and pursuing other interests as well. At Mount Holyoke, academics comes first, which Aldo stresses, so he's always understanding if you have to miss or be late to a practice because of an academic commitment.
MH: The best aspect about being a Division III athlete is that I am able to play a sport that I love but also study something that I am just as passionate about.
5. What do you want the rest of the campus to know about Mount Holyoke’s student-athletes?
AS: They are committed to both the student and athlete aspects about being a student-athlete. We gave them a good program to develop leadership skills. They care a lot about representing the college. They’re very proud of being student-athletes. They love their sports and they want to excel in them. That’s also the case in their academics. We all do our best to represent this great college with our best effort.
MC: By all means, if you play a sport/sports well, try out for the varsity team. It’s a great learning experience itself and it’s a lot of fun, too.
KS: Just because we're Division III athletes doesn't mean we aren't good! The tennis team, and all of MHC's teams, are all very good and competitive and we're passionate about our sports!
MH: I want the rest of the campus to know that MHC student-athletes are driven, work just as hard (if not harder due to their competitiveness) in the classroom, and motivating. We really are a community in the athletic department, and I think it would be great to have more non-student athletes be a part of that bond.
Photos courtesy of the MHC Tennis Team.
For more information, visit www.ncaa.org/about/division-iii-week-2015.