Tennis team goes international, focuses on team aspect

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 at 10:32 PM

Imagine moving away from not just your hometown or state, but from your country in order to play a sport and get an American education. That’s what many of Edinboro’s tennis players have done the past few years.

“Coach Lee (Underwood) went there, saw my video and wanted me to come,” Mateus Santos, a freshman, said about his recruiting process.

Santos said he was a part of a website where they post videos playing tennis for coaches to see and if they are interested they can get in contact with athletes.

Santos is from Brazil, so he was unable to visit the campus before coming here, but he knew he wanted to play tennis in America. He noted the deciding factor that influenced him to choose Edinboro was the tennis team, as he was looking at other schools, such as Bloomsburg.

Fortunately for him, he had been studying the English language his whole life, but adapting to everyone speaking English was tough at first.

“I had three friends from Brazil here too, so it was easier, but with time I was able to speak English more fluently,” Santos said.

Laura Lopez, on the other hand, did not know how to speak English before coming to America. She started learning by studying for the SATs since they are a requirement to get accepted to Edinboro.

Lopez said at first her conversational skills were very weak, but have improved, however her English still needs some work. “I think my roommate helped me a lot because every time we talk it is in English,” Lopez said.

Underwood said a big selling factor for these athletes to come to Edinboro is the fact that they are able to play for championships here and even qualify for the national tournament. He knows they can go a lot of places, but not everywhere they look can offer that to them.

“In NCAA Division II you go nowhere as an individual, you can only go as a team,” Underwood said of the sport. “Kids have to buy into the team aspect...I think it’s a unique kind of setup.” Underwood continued to say everything goes on at the same time, so every player goes out and fights, not knowing how their teammates are doing in the matches.

Underwood said he gets asked why he recruits so many South American kids and said the real reason is he finds them more social and more of a bonding type, which makes for a better team aspect. He really stressed the importance of buying into the team atmosphere.

Underwood said there is a large portion of international players among the best in Division I and Division II. Both Santos and Lopez said they played for a club team when they were home and that it is all individual and here you’re playing as a team.

Santos said there was a lot more pressure in Brazil, because if you lose here, there is a team that can come through for you. He also said coming here and having good players around him has helped him improve as a player.

Lopez said she enjoys playing in tournaments more here because she has her team to support her the whole time.

Lopez and Santos each had several coaches in their clubs, so coming here to one head coach and one assistant was very different for them, but both have been able to transition well.

Lopez likes it more with just two coaches because the focus is on the team aspect more than just on individuals.

Both athletes said it was easier to adjust to a brand new place with the majority of the athletes on the team also being from different countries. They were able to improve their English skills because if neither of them spoke each other’s native language, the only option was to speak in English to each other.

Mike McLaughlin is the Sports Editor for The Spectator and he can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

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