Day Nine - August 8, 2002
The final full day of my Nats at the Zoo recruiting trip began with the standard morning routine: wake up to the deafening alarm on my phone, enjoy a bowl of cereal covered with fresh blueberries and finalize my daily evaluation schedule. Following a farewell to Bruce and Cheryl Briney and Otis (the Briney beagle), I headed for Stowe Stadium prepared to grind out another day on the courts.
Today's focus was on a dozen targeted prospects that were still competing in the later rounds of the tournament. One solid detail was that all the matches would take place at Stowe as Western Michigan University wrapped up their action a day before. I could, therefore, focus a bit more specifically on each match, charting points and patterns of each prospect.
The first pair of matches was conveniently located next to each other and featured a pair of California grinders. Each player had expressed a solid interest in becoming a Bronco and I was impressed to see their progress throughout the tournament. I didn't notice many other coaches on hand for the matches, as a lot had departed the event and headed back to their campuses. The recruiting competition was still fierce, however, as it all came down to who could make the right connection with each player.
As the early morning matches wound down, a trio of others began on the backcourts and was thankfully again all near each other. These prospects represented the West, Midwest and East regions of the United States. Their game styles and personalities matched the Bronco tennis mold as I imagined them wearing the Bronco red and white and competing on courts 1, 2 and 3 at the Santa Clara University Tennis Center.
The sun's rays became a bit stronger as the morning moved closer to midday. The humidity seemed to have taken a vacation from Kalamazoo, though I heard the temps would increase over the weekend. The morning prospects had all won their matches and were slated to play the second half of their doubleheaders in the afternoon. The short break gave me some time to head to Jimmy Johns for a tasty sub and back to Stowe for the remainder of the day.
The crowd had doubled since I left, as the majority of stadium seats were now full. A plethora of forehands, backhands, aces and overhead smashes were providing quite a show for the spectators and the atmosphere intensified. The afternoon segment was much like the morning, though not all the prospects came out on the winning end of their matches. That gave me the opportunity to say a few words to them as they were officially out of the tournament (NCAA rules prohibit any communication while a player is still competing). Following a few short meetings with the potential future of Bronco Men's Tennis, it was time to depart the Zoo and head back to the Windy City where my plane would depart the next morning.
Overall, the 2002 Nats at the Zoo was tremendous. Learning the ins and outs of the tournament, meeting the coaches and watching the players compete at the highest level of American junior tennis for hours upon hours was very exciting and a valuable experience. Upon my return to campus, my focus will be preparing for end of the month evaluation trips as well as confirming official visits for the targeted Broncos.
The summer has flown by and our practice is set to begin in a little more than a month's time. Lots to do but plenty of energy to get things rolling on the home front. I definitely look forward to many more Zoo trips, and no doubt, the upcoming season at Santa Clara University. See you out on the courts.