Edinboro’s men’s and women’s tennis programs find strength in their diversity

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 at 5:25 PM

One of the most surprising things about Edinboro University’s tennis teams is a statistic that has little to do with their performance. 

Or maybe it does. 

A large majority of the men’s and women’s squads are made up of international students.

Kody Duncan, the head coach of both teams, explained the recruitment process he uses, which is the same that was used by the previous head coach, Lee Underwood. To put it simply, international students interested in playing tennis at American schools find agencies who can get them recruited. 

For this, they need a video of themselves playing, along with their SAT and TOEFL scores. The TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language, is an exam measuring their proficiency with America’s primary language.

Using that information, those agencies reach out to coaches in America, such as Duncan, who explained, “I get probably 10 to 15 emails a week just from these agencies showing me these students.”

If the coach is interested, they can get in touch and eventually offer a scholarship to the student to have them attend and play at that school. That scholarship can be a deciding factor for international students who want to attend college in the U.S. 

According to Duncan, stories like that are common, which is why there are so many international students in Division II. 

“And since there’s no scholarship in Division III, it’s a lot harder for international students to go to Division III when they don’t get that financial support,” he explained. “But Division II, it’s open for them because usually Division II is state schools so it’s a lot cheaper and they offer scholarships.”

Such was the case for Roxana Yeh, who came from Argentina to attend Edinboro. Yeh, a senior, explained that she probably wouldn’t have been able to attend college in the U.S. without the scholarships she received for playing tennis.

Furthermore, Yeh believes that variety helps them bond as a team. 

“We have a couple of Americans on the team…and we always joke with them,” she described. “They joke, like make fun of us, like our accents and everything. We make fun of them, like American culture and everything. It’s fun to be around different cultures.” 

The variety of backgrounds came as a surprise to Yeh, who was not expecting as many international students to be on the team. “I thought it would be one or two,” she explained. “Not more than half the team.”

Duncan experienced this as well when he was recruited by Underwood in 2010. “Obviously when you’re in the high school level you’re only going to be playing with American students,” he said. “But, when you come to the college level, especially Division II, I would say, probably, 80-90 percent of the people I played were international students.”

Thomas McCoy, a junior and one of four American students on Edinboro’s tennis team, had a less extreme change between playing in high school versus college. Being from Miami, Florida, he had played often against international players. 

“You can play year-round there, so a lot of people go there to play,” he explained. “They have a tournament called the Junior Orange Bowl where kids from all over the world come and play.”

Given his experience, the transition into college was not as drastic a change. But while he was looking at the rosters of college tennis teams during his college search, he was still caught off guard. 

“I was pretty surprised at the difference,” he recalled. “It wasn’t even like a 60/40 majority, it was like an 85/15 majority.”

Like Yeh, McCoy looks at that diversity as a positive thing. 

“It’s cool to see more people, to hear different languages,” he explained. “You learn more things.”

And as the one who looks over both teams, Duncan had much the same to say about the diversity of the groups he coaches. 

“I really think bringing all them together, all that diversity,” he began, “I really think it really does help and brings us all together.”

Nathan Hirth can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: sports, tennis

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