Dear Lobo Nation,
I wanted to update you on the results of the first annual National Alumni Tennis Championships held in Fort Worth, TX at Texas Christian University.
Tom Hand, former Louisiana State University standout and NAC Tournament Director came up with the idea and put on an outstanding event for the players and spectators.
This year six teams made the trip to TCU, although with the success of the event and excitement it generated I expect between 16-24 teams in the event next year. Teams were broken down into two groups of three with the group winners taking each other on in the finals. In group one Georgia, Middle Tennessee State, and Baylor went to battle. Group two featured your New Mexico Lobos, Texas, and host TCU.
Most teams brought between 8-10 players as substitutes were definitely necessary with the intense format created by Hand. Each match featured two doubles matches playing one pro-set, THEN reversing the matches (substitutes were allowed here) and playing another pro-set all while a two out of three set singles match was in play for a total of five points.
The Lobos could only rally five total players for this special event: Bart Scott (singles), David Kowalski and Ryan Stotland (#1 Doubles), and Gene Carswell and Johnny Kowalski (#2 Doubles). After an intense day one where each doubles player played four pro-sets and I played two, two out of three set singles matches vs Texas in the morning and TCU in the afternoon, we were dubbed the “Iron Five.”
Not sure if the name fit as we were pretty beat up after the first day. In the finals against Georgia we fought extremely hard, but we were just too tired, and they were just too good.
It was a great weekend of tennis, but more importantly, Tom Hand got us all together to compete again, to remember the “good old days,” and to reconnect with friends and teammates.
We can’t wait to go again next year. If any of you out there want to be a part of it next year, please get in touch with me, Alan Dils, or Tim Garcia.
As always, Go Lobos!!!
Dear Lobo Nation,
For this installment of “Where Are They Now?” We feature one of the finest Lobos ever to play at the University of New Mexico, All-American Jack Kennedy. Jack has given New Mexico Tennis so much over the years and continues to be a part of the legacy that he helped build.
Bart Scott: Jack, thanks so much for joining us today! Let’s get right into it. Update Lobo Nation on your whereabouts these days? Are you still playing tennis?
Jack Kennedy: Bart. Thanks for including me in this wonderful blog you have created for those of us who are interested in tennis at UNM as well as the game of tennis in general.
Since I retired from dentistry 16 years ago, Susan and I have lived in three different locations. We have lived in Albuquerque for six months, three months at a time, in the winter in the Coachella Valley(Palm Springs etc.), and in the summer in France. It has been a wonderful retirement for we spend three months at a time in different locations, always having something new to look forward to in each location. We have many friends in Albuquerque. Albuquerque has been our home for much of our lives. Our roots and family are here, or nearby, and, UNM, and watching the school grow and prosper, has always been important to both of us. By living other places during the year, enjoying, in France another culture, it has made our love of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and UNM, ever stronger with each passing year.
We went to Palm Desert after retirement to run a winter tennis program at a Resort. What a great experience. The weather in the winter is magnificent, the people were terrific. I was consistently amazed by how grateful a group of “aging” people were if one could just help them become a bit better at the wonderful game that all of us love. Many of these people made me tired just watching them go from playing tennis, to riding bikes, to hiking, as well as playing golf many times each week. Clearly, it is beneficial for everyone to stay as active as they can throughout their lives, creating new relationships along the way, for the key to a complete and healthy life for Susan and for me is to stay active and engaged with others.
Living in France in the summer has been an extraordinary experience. We went there initially to ride our bikes throughout France and learn the language. Along the way we fell in love with the Loire Valley, an especially beautiful town called Vendome, and, for 15 years we have used Vendome as our base, doing a great deal of biking around the country. We live on a property of about two acres with Michelle and Marie the owners and caretakers of the house in which we live. This property is within a few minutes of an 11th century cathedral and a 15th century chateau. We have biked thousands of Km. in 15 years that has allowed us to stay in good health and eat as much of the fine food as we wish and not gain weight. We are true Francophiles, love the food, the wine, the people and the culture, where most people in our community and those we visit on our bikes in many regions, always seem to have the time for a bit of conversation over coffee or a glass of wine. We speak French well enough that we can have conversations in any community and there is always a chair available for us, many people in The Loire Valley know us as “Les Americaines”. The French love to talk and debate about world issues. I am over being surprised how much a factory worker in France can know about countries and cultures other than France, especially, America, and how warm most people are in France when our accent when speaking French gives away the fact that we are Americans. Contrary to what many people in the US think, the average French person loves the US. They continue to see our country as the land of opportunity and at the tables in the cafes there are always questions to be answered about America. Though I love our life in France, I wake up each morning being grateful that I was born in the US, that New Mexico is our home, for those of us who are American citizens truly are the most fortunate people in the world.
Susan continues to play tennis. After 10 years of teaching tennis in Palm Desert, and playing a good deal in Vendome with some very good players, my knees prefer that I play golf at this time. Do I miss playing tennis. Yes, for it is clearly the best game ever devised, not only for competition at the highest level, but certainly for the recreational player, which, with age, all of us become.
BScott: Thanks so much for that wonderful update! How much did your decision to play tennis and study at UNM impact your life immediately at that time and then later on in your life as a successful husband, father, and dentist?
JK: It would be difficult to over emphasize the importance of competitive tennis in my life. Most of us, as adolescents and teenagers, have a bit of insecurity and lack of confidence. Life is changing rapidly as a teenager and all of us, at times, are caught up a bit in no man’s land between being a child and being an adult. I struggled in high school and though I was a pretty good athlete I did not have much confidence in myself. I had one high school coach who did not know much about tennis, but knew a great deal about life. He convinced this very left handed, right brained boy, that my strengths in life would be my differences – that I was good at tennis in a large part because I was left handed and played differently than most others. I had always felt that I was marching to another tune than everyone else and, up until this coach talked to me that day I had always seen my differences as a defect, not an asset. Mr. Kaplan convinced me that if I would only play from my strengths, my differences in life, that I had a chance to do something special – that I did not have to be good at everything, for no one was – that as all of us learn on a tennis court, we must learn to play from our strengths if we wish to win.
Much of life for most of us is not planned in advance. I had no life plan when I was young, my Father had no great interest in any sport. I did. We lived near Bataan Park at the corner of Carlisle and Lomas right after the Second World War.(hard to imagine, but the pavement on Lomas and Carlisle, ended at the junction of the two streets at that time. There was nothing East and North of that corner except a few small “ranches”. There were 70 children living in a three block area where we constantly played sports in the park, all of it organized by the children, not by adults. Tennis was not the sport to play in Albuquerque if one was a good athlete in the era, but one summer, after I broke my clavicle and dislocated an elbow, playing in a pick up football game, my Mother got me a racket and there was something about the game that turned me on. I had some early success, and soon was going to other cities to play in tennis tournaments, a few nice adults in the city helping me with equipment, balls, and travel expenses, and I was off and running. Some of my friends recognized that tennis was getting me places they weren’t going, and what started out as a joke to many of them for I gave up other sports to concentrate on tennis, soon became a major positive in my young life as I was beginning to be recognized for my abilities on the court. We had some good tennis players in Albuquerque at that time, Paul Butt, who taught me how to play tennis and was the first tennis player in Albuquerque in my mind to truly have a classical game, and Ted and Tim Russell’s Dad, Gene Russell, leading the way. I played mainly with adults as a 15 year old and learned that I had to be a complete player if I wanted to beat them. I won the Southwest Juniors, did well on the National Junior Circuit as a Senior in high school, and received a number of communications from other schools relative to tennis. I will tell you that I stayed in Albuquerque because I was in love with Susan, who I met at Highland High School. We have been married for 54 years and I appreciate her more each day. I could have gone to a bigger tennis school, perhaps UCLA, Miami, or Michigan, and started out at #4 on the roster, and though I never lost a set to another player on the team in four years, I stayed at UNM and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
For many reasons it was a wonderful time to be in college and, specifically at UNM, especially as an athlete. We had less than 6000 students at UNM in 1956. It is ironic that a terrible societal reality, Segregation, created a circumstance where four magnificent, world class athletes, were at UNM from 1956 to 1960. Don Perkins, as we all know an All American football player and ultimately the star running back of the Dallas Cowboys spent the same 4 years at UNM as I did. Adolf Plummer, became the World Record Holder in the 200 meter dash and was one of the most intelligent and articulate people I have ever known. Dickie Howard, who ran with such grace that I have never seen anyone who compared to him with style and finesse, was the second best 400 meter hurdler in the world. Buster Quist along with Adolf, a member of the UNM Athletic Hall of Honor, was the Pan American Javelin throwing champion and one of the best in the world, a local product who went to Albuquerque High School. Buster was clearly the catalyst for Plummer and Howard to come to UNM. They were on an American track team touring Japan, many schools in the US were totally segregated at that time, and Buster convinced them to come back to UNM with him.
I was 18 years old and naïve. Buster was a fraternity Brother in the fraternity that I pledged. Because of Buster I was able to talk with and spend time with these world class athletes. I thought it was normal for us to have All Americans walking around our campus, not knowing, until a few years later, how difficult it was for a small school like UNM at the time to compete on a national level, which we did. We had many wonderful athletes at UNM who were my friends and confidants, including Gig Brummell and Jerry Prohaska. I thought winning went with the territory. I was undefeated as a Freshman in college tennis, winning 18 matches in a row, not able to play in the NCAAs in that era as a Freshman after winning the Skyline Conference without losing a set. That summer UNM helped me financially to play in the East which was on grass, as well as the Canadian Grass Court circuit, winning one tournament in Canada. I won the Skyline Championship a second time as a sophomore, had a good run at the NCAAs and became the first All American at UNM, the only All American from any school in the Rocky Mountains or Southwest that year according to a newspaper article.
I came to the conclusion after a couple of summers playing in the East that being a touring tennis player at that time was a bit like being a ski bum, for though everyone was considered an amateur, there was a good deal of money that passed, under the table, in an envelope, most of us, including Laver, staying in the homes of very wealthy people, not in Hotels. At age 20 I decided that I would continue to play competitive tennis, for one could, and I did, mainly in regional tournaments that were very strong in that era, the transition to professional tennis not coming until the 70s, but that I needed something more secure if I wanted to make a life that allowed marriage and a family. I did well in school with this added confidence and from my Freshman year on the lessons learned playing competitive tennis at a Division 1 school had a great deal to do with any successes in my life, including those of being a husband, father, and a dentist.
It would take me a book to list all the lessons I learned on a tennis court that allowed me to live a better life than I would have if I had never competed. I am convinced that any Division1 athlete learns lessons on a competitive field that give him/her a leg up on many other young men and women. Competitive tennis taught me to win with class and lose with dignity. It taught me, as well, that no one wins all the time in life, and most of all, that no matter how badly I play the game of life on any given day, that each morning I have the opportunity to arrive with my A game – that there is always another “tournament” next week in which I have the opportunity to either succeed magnificently, or fail on that particular day. I have been blessed in my life for as Henry Miller, the great author, wrote in his fine essay called, “On Turning 80″, “I have never had a morning in my life that I didn’t wake up and have something to think about, something that was important to me, and that I was not ready to go out and do my best for the day”, it has been pretty much the same for me. I learned from playing competitive tennis that I did not have to win every day, and would not, in order to make a successful life – that what was important was to give it my best each day and good things would probably happen over time. That lesson came most completely at UNM, playing Division 1 tennis, for competing on the tennis court made competaing in the classroom, much easier for me than it would have been otherwise.
Those who play competitive tennis learn quickly, if they are to survive the experience, that losing is as much a part of life as winning, and that it is important to have a short memory. Thomas Edison said it as well as it can be said, “For every good idea, I had a thousand bad ones”. The saddest reflection in my life as I look back deals with those I met along the way who were gifted, but never opened their “gift”, as well as those who, with the first real blow in life, the first terrible loss, decided that the pain of losing was greater than the thrill of winning and never came close to reaching their potential in life. Which brings me to the thought that perseverance may very well be the gift of those who do genius work in any field they choose. Most of us who played competitive tennis realize that, at times, all it takes to win is to have the will and perseverance to attempt to hit one more ball back in play to win many matches. It is the same in life. Life is not all about competition, but it is naïve to think that those who excel at anything are not competitors, willing to put in the extra time and the extra effort, while many others drop off along the way.
BScott: Jack, you are clearly a great writer, thank you for the detailed responses. The next interview will have a lot to live up to :) Moving on then, What advice would you give the current team based on your experiences at UNM, and knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
JK: Take that which you have already learned about life, some of it on the tennis court, and apply it to some field that you believe you will love, with as much passion and enthusiasm as you can give on a daily basis. I spent a great deal of time working with cognitive psychologists on the high suicide rate that was found in dentistry.(dentists were killing themselves at 3.5 times the rate of the average citizen). Our conclusion was that there was a common thread exhibited among those dentists who committed suicide and it was that they never should have gone to dental school in the first place. Many of the suicides were men who were bright, anal retentive, loved the perfection necessary to be a good dentist, but were not great people, people. Many of these folks had a comfort zone with others that could be measured in feet, when they were sitting, all day long, as close to others, face to face, as one can do in any profession or field of work. A substantial number of them, talented in many ways, just flat chose the wrong life’s work.
All of us have strengths and weaknesses. No one has just one intelligence(strength), unless one is “Rainman”, and no one has all the 7 intelligences that Howard Gardner a psychologist demonstrated in his wonderful book, “Frames of Mind, The Multiple Intelligence Theory”. That which those of us know who play competitive tennis is that the best of us who win the most play tennis from our strengths, not from our weaknesses. If David Ferrer attempted to play tennis like John Isner, or the reverse, we would not know either of their names. This is a simple concept for any Division 1 tennis player. Translating this understanding into a choice of a life’s work for many people is not necessarily the rule, but every competitive tennis player knows this from experience on the court.
All of us must first of all understand what our strengths and weaknesses are in a world that is not on the tennis court, for most of us, as the NCAA add goes, become professionals in some other field, and then, choose a field that turns us on and fits within our strengths. Many of the suicides we found in dentistry came from young people making the choice to become dentists for reasons such as, “My Mother wanted a Doctor in the Family”, or a myriad of other reasons where a young person makes a bad choice for a life’s work because they are unable to “Whistle their own Tune through their own Beak”. They get locked into a life’s work where they have invested a great deal of time, effort, and expense, and their daily experience is one of frustration and discomfort, rather than pleasure through meeting the challenges presented to them in a field which they enjoy. I am not indicating that all of life will be wonderful if one chooses just the right field for their life’s work, for much like a tennis match, there are highs and lows, wins and losses along the road, but it is clear to competitive tennis players, that if Michael Chang, a good athlete who covered a great deal of court, had as his life’s goal to play linebacker for the San Francisco Forty Niners, he would have been a terrible failure, for obvious reasons as he weighed about 150 lbs. That which is so easy to see when thinking about athletic field choices, is very difficult for many to see when thinking about their choice of a life’s work. Those who are at UNM now are in the first inning of a very long game. Know your strengths and do not get caught up like so many people do in choosing a field that shines a spotlight on one’s weaknesses.
I have very little regrets looking back. A very bright philosopher said, “Life must be lived looking forward, but can only be understood looking backwards”. Clearly most of my life is in the rear view mirror. I chose a field that was great for me. I liked the procedures I did on a daily basis, and I loved the interchange with people. As well, there is something very seductive being called Doctor on a daily basis, where people are dependent upon you doing your very best for them day after day for their health and well being. As well, because tennis did not join the Open era until the mid 70s, I was able to play tennis around the US in 4 day tournaments, until I was about 39, being able to practice dentistry 3 to 4 days per week and play competitive tennis on long week ends. This choice of a dual life is not available now, as all of you know. In order to have a chance at playing with the Best of players it is now a full time job.
I did have the opportunity to see how good I might become by playing on the Tour, full time, after my Freshman Year at UNM. I did play tournaments in the Eastern US as well as Canada during the summer, but on a very part time basis while I was in school. Margaret Osborne Dupont, part of the very wealthy DuPont family, a woman player who won many Grand Prix Titles, both singles and doubles, after watching me play a close match against Tut Bartzen, who was many times US Clay Court Champion, in the quarters of the Southwest Tennis Championships, approached me after the match in El Paso where she lived, and said, “Jack, I think you can play. I will find you a coach and pay for your expenses for a year to see where all of it goes”. I was 18 years old, loving it at UNM. I had made a number of new friends and new relationships. I was enjoying the classes and the excitement of expanding my knowledge base, and I decided to stay in school. In retrospect it is the best difficult choice I made in my life, for I might have played tennis at a higher level than I did, but, as well, I might have missed my opportunity to go to dental school as well as marry the love of my life. I have thought about it, on occasion, but I made the right choice, for in those days, being a tennis player on the Tour did not have the same “Brass Ring” possibilities as it has now.
BScott: I know that you follow tennis today closely. What do you think is the single most important change tennis has seen since when you played, to its current state now? What are a few others that come to mind as well?
JK: The game played today is not the same game that was played 50 years ago. There are many reasons this is so.
First, I do not believe there were 50 World Class athletes playing tennis in my era. There were many good athletes, and, quite frankly, we never knew many of their names, for, it took a special person to hang around competitive tennis long enough to become a featured player, living a life much different than those on the tour live at this time. There was not much future in tennis for the majority of players, therefore, many good players chose to continue their education and get on with a life outside of tennis. Now there are at least 1000 World Class Athletes playing tennis. As a group, both men and women, they are bigger, stronger, work out in a manner that no one thought of doing when I played, eat better and have professional trainers and dieticians. It is an entirely different world.
Second, the equipment, the rackets and strings, as we all know have changed the manner in which the game is played. Wooden rackets with a small sweet spot did not allow, even if we had been able, to make shots from any position on the court. I continue to be amazed each time I watch Federer play, where with that relatively slim upper body and great timing, he can catch a half volley at the baseline that already is past his body and hit it back with power.
At times, I do think that the size and strength of the athletes, along with the equipment have made the game less interesting in some ways. Subtle shots, except on clay, are, essentially a thing of the past. Few players intentionally come to the net on a routine basis, though it is fun to see Edberg working with Federer at this time attempting to get him to come in more often. Great for Isner and other 6’8″ players to have the massive and talented serves, but it’s not that much fun to watch tie breaker after tie breaker, the match either won or lost on one player or another getting a few service returns into play at just the right moment in a match. Hitting lobs as an offensive weapon are not as frequent as in the wooden racket era, for many reasons, most of all because the folks at the top are such good athletes that one must make a perfect lob or see it bludgeoned into the stands. I was never a fan of watching Shaq dunk basketballs, and I do think a good deal of many tennis matches now have routine patterns that are fairly predictable, some of them exciting to watch, the great angles that are available to those who hit two handed backhands – but there is little out there that compares at this time with watching a match between a McEnroe and Ile Nastase, all of their matches with a good deal of athletic strength, mixed with semi ballet moves that surprised and delighted the fans, to say nothing of the unique personalities of both of these men. McEnroe with his “Are You Serious Tirades”, and Nastaste, with his occasional B.A.s of the umpire, one I watched in person when he was defaulted from the match. He went and showered, and was back in the stands kissing babies and charming the ladies within an hour of being thrown off the court, as though he was running for public office, not that he had just been thrown off the court for making an obscene gesture.
BScott: Do you think there is a problem with American Tennis on the Professional Level. If so, what do you think the problem is, and what can be done to fix it.(In lieu of the changes the USTA player development program are going through with Patrick McEnroe stepping down)
JK: Bart, we can argue whether winning tennis tournaments and being the best in the world at any sport is truly important to any society – that there is a valid argument that, at this time, we are over weighted in the amount of money that athletes and coaches, especially in the sports of Football and Basketball make compared to those who, for instance, receive a Nobel Prize for making some discovery that saves millions of lives.
But, let’s assume that sports in the US are important and, for many reasons, specifically in NM, that it is one of the few things that brings an entire community together, forget about political differences, and, in some lives, those lives that are filled on a daily basis of attempting to keep a family going, many people working more than one job, being a Lobo Fan is one of the true pleasures in their lives. I believe, on balance, competitive sports at a World, U.S., State and a local level, are very important to any society, for it allows all of us to come together, whether on Saturday or Sunday throughout the US to cheer for “Our” team. I have already discussed what competitive sports, if one has their eyes open, teaches those who play these sports about life and how one might live the fullest of lives. But competitive sports at the high school, university, and professional level, with all their downsides, are, on balance, important to small and big communities, those who play and played sports, and those who never did, throughout our wonderful country. What person who grows up in a small community does not realize the benefit to their small community of the Friday night football game?
With that understood, that we are a society that enjoys competition and features those who excel at sports more than most societies, then, it doesn’t take Dick Tracy(now you know what era I come from, Dick Tracy the most important “Detective” in newspaper comics during my era), to know that we have a problem with the development of world class tennis players in the US. We are a country of 350 million people. We have some of the best facilities in the world with many foreign players deciding to make their base in the US, even though they play considerably more in taxes than they would if they chose a place like Monte Carlo.
It is not the weather, or the facilities, or the coaches, that is holding us back. For me, just an observer at this age, it is the fact that many countries, like France, where we have lived for many years in the summer, attract a great deal more excellent athletes to tennis than we do in the U.S. One need only compare the massive advancements in tennis excellence in much smaller, and less rich countries per capita, like Serbia, but, as well, France and Spain, countries a good deal larger than Serbia, but one fifth the size of the US, to know that we are going through a fairly extended patch of not having as good athletes playing tennis in the US as we are finding in many foreign countries. At the moment, much of this excellence is coming from Western and Eastern Europe, but, it is my understanding that Asia, in the next several years, may very well begin to turn out a number of potential top 10 players in both the men’s and women’s ranks.
The “apology” for our extended recent lack of highly ranked players dominating the top 20 relies on two arguments, as I see it.
One is that, using Sweden as an example, there has always been, and always will be, in all fields of endeavor, cycles within individual countries that have produced great tennis players and cycles where they have produced almost none. Sweden may be the most glaring example at the moment, having a run of many World Class Players, Borg, Edberg, Wilander, Soderling, etc., with no visible Swedish players at this time. The “apologists” for our “dry patch” of producing outstanding players in the US are hopeful that this is just a cyclical problem – that we will be back on top in a short number of years.
Two, though there are as many theories on why we have so few top level players in the US at this moment, as their are those who can hold opinions, one I hear given by many is that because there are so many other sports played at a World Class level in the US, those that are more “important” in the US like basketball, football, and baseball, that most of the very good athletes in our country are going towards other sports than tennis. I do believe that in many regions of the world that there are a higher percentage of good athletes playing tennis than we have in the US, but when a country like Serbia that has a population of only 2% of ours, it would seem, that the same reason that has brought many world class athletes to tennis in these European countries, much more money, fame, and fortune, than in previous years, that we could find a sizeable number of excellent athletes in the US, as well, at least comparative to the numbers found in Serbia, no matter that tennis is not drawing, percentage wise, as many athletes to tennis as France, Spain, and Serbia. We have Serena and, though we have many good young players, both male and female, no one in sight that I can see who is a pretender to her throne as the best tennis player in the world. Serbia has had both the #1 male and female player in recent years, with many pretenders to the throne, players that have been in the top 20.
And this brings me to one of the major reasons that Susan and I decided to participate, financially, in bringing a new court to the present, what will become, the best Division 1 tennis facility this side of the Mississippi, according to the Athletic Department. I have never been known for side stepping an issue. I believe that tennis continues to be a Country Club Sport in the US and, no matter what is said, I believe the heavy Eastern US money that seems to control the USTA wishes to keep it that way. It is my opinion that if we once again wish to become preeminent in World Tennis, we must begin to seek out good adolescent athletes that are hungry, those who are willing to bust their butt to become something special, those who do not have many options in life and might just see the brass ring of professional tennis, as a way to do something extraordinary. I recognize that the USTA has been doing a fine job of bringing tennis to younger people throughout communities in the US, but mainly, giving these young people a chance to play the game recreationally. It takes a rare combination of a human to become world class at anything, especially a sport. The heart has to be as big as the talent if one is to build a stable of fine world class tennis players. I am not denigrating an effort to expose the many to recreational tennis, for in it’s own right, this is a good thing. But, if one is to build great tennis players it will take a good deal more effort and concentration on the few that have already exhibited both athletic skills and the desire and perseverance to become something special on a tennis court, and we just aren’t doing as good a job at that as is being done in many other countries at this time.
We will, soon, have a world class facility right here in NM. We already have a nucleus of excellent coaches, present and past, Alan and Loren Dils, Bart Scott, Erica Perkins Jasper and Kelcy McKenna, etc. with a few extremely unique resources to accomplish something special right here in NM. Tim Cass, as most of us know, is a very special person. Few people like Tim come along on a routine basis. He is our “Tim” at this moment and we are fortunate that his background in sports started with tennis. He is energetic, innovative, a great PR person, but tough when he needs to be, and capable of thinking “Outside the Box”. That which is very clear to me after all these years is that it takes those willing and able to think outside the box to accomplish great things. As well,
Doug McCurdy, a UNM tennis player and graduate, formerly the Director of the International Tennis Federation for many years, who, later, had the job with Tim Gullikson for a period of time, the two as Directors of “Player Development” at the USTA, has great experience in developing tennis programs in China, newly in Korea and India, as well as, at the moment, working with players in Turkey. He knows how to get excellent athletes to concentrate on tennis and he is worth listening to at this time. Doug and I spent a few hours together recently at my house. His story of how he helped develop young, excellent, athletes in Korea to play tennis, where, contrary to the US, there had never been any great Korean players, is a story worth telling and hearing.
Obviously, Ian McKinnon and his family have played a major role in helping to create this facility that will give us a chance, right here, at UNM, to create great UNM teams, men’s and women’s, but, as well, to go into the community, as Doug did in Korea, for example, and find some great young athletes who may have never touched a tennis racket, and bring some possible world class athletes into tennis in our own community. Ian is obviously bright, outgoing, has a love of tennis, and has a no nonsense approach to creating winning environments in his life. I think, from a very short conversation I had with Ian that he realizes that we have a real possibility of doing something special at UNM at this time and he feels very good to be a part of it.
With all of that said, we have a nucleus of people involved in UNM tennis at this moment, as well as a facility, that if we keep the vision, the dream, big enough, that something truly extraordinary could happen right here in Albuquerque. It has been my experience that if one is not a bit scared when attempting to do something special, then they probably are not thinking big enough about what is possible. One of the most wonderful things about the US is that, on a daily basis, our culture has entrepreneurs come forward, some of them with what appear to be far out thinking, that ultimately, with a good work ethic and perseverance, and the ability to think outside of the box, many of these “outlandish” ideas turn into cultural changing results. As most of those who ultimately become world class athletes think at one time or another as they are working to become as good as they can be, “Why Not Me?”, the same thing can be said about any community that has a foundation in place to do something special. I happen to think it is here at UNM Tennis, right now, and I hope some of the young people involved, as well as the older people, some of them with the wisdom that comes from the experience of life, will take a chance on creating something very special in our state at UNM, and make a run at doing something that seems outlandish to many others but is within the range of possibility. I am convinced that the only thing in life that comes second to winning is losing – that the real losers in life are those who never take a chance at becoming the best they can be for fear of failure. Unique possibilities in life, in my experience at the age of 76, come along only on rare occasions. For me, this is one of those rare occasions.
Dwight Edwards, a new friend to me, a former Touring Tennis Player,a man with a degree in theology as well as a Ph.D in psychology, a man who speaks throughout the country about excellence and leading a positive life, told me recently about a study he undertook dealing with people 70 years old or older. He asked the question, and gave a number of possible answers to choose, “What would you have done different in your life if you had it to live over again?” Dwight said that of the 8 choices he gave, over 50% of those who responded said, “I would have taken more chances in my life.”
BScott: Those are all great points! Thanks so much for joining us Jack. We appreciate your support and genuine love for tennis and the Lobos! Hope we see each other soon, and as always, Go Lobos!
JK: Thanks Bart for allowing me to talk a bit about my life and my thoughts about tennis, especially here at UNM. And, Go Lobos!!
Well Lobo Nation, that wraps up another edition of “Where Are They Now?” If you or anyone you know wants to catch up on a former Lobo, please send a message, comment, or get ahold of me any way you can to nominate someone! It’s so great catching up with these amazing Lobos!
Stay in touch and a be on the lookout for our fall recap. It’s been a very productive fall. I’m excited to share the news!
How is everyone feeling now that fall is in the air? Your Lobos have been hard at work and are already in full swing. Just like the changing of the seasons, the Lobo Men’s Tennis Team have undergone a few changes as well. Most notably the all-time winningest tennis coach in UNM history, our coach, mentor, and friend, Alan Dils retired effectively July 1, 2014. He leaves a legacy at UNM that is unmatched, and far too long to detail here. He retires from tennis but he hasn’t left us yet, in fact, as he puts it, he “retired to work more!” He will continue to bleed cherry and silver as he heads upstairs to the administrative offices to work on Alumni relations, development, and many other exciting projects that are sure to keep him busy.
I officially took over on July 1, 2014. I’m humbled and honored to be the interim head coach at my alma mater. Following a great friend and mentor in Alan Dils is something that will always humble me. His shoes are far too big to fill, so rather than try, my assistant and I (former Lobo, Ben Dunbar) have decided to blaze our own trail. Our guys have bought in and are really working hard. We returned 9 players from our MWC runner up team and have added three players, Albuquerque’s own Michael Tran, Holland’s Bart Van Leijsen, and Augie Ge of Phoenix.
Captains were named late this summer for the first time in a long time. We’re happy to announce seniors James Hignett and Sam Iftikhar are our captains for the 2014-2015 season. James just got back from Midland, TX where he and Van Leijsen were in the semifinals of doubles before the tournament was called off because of rain, and Sam just returned from Thailand where he competed for Pakistan in the Davis Cup World Group II finals. It was another great experience for Iftikhar where he tallied his first win in the prestigious international team event.
All of you Lobo fans can look forward to this Friday, September 19th as a few of our Lobos will face off against Americas best and brightest juniors in a exhibition match at the newly opened McKinnon Family Tennis Center. Located in the Baseball, Softball Complex this tennis center makes this facility one of the best all around facilities in the country. Make sure you come out for a tennis match and stay for baseball and softball. That facility will make our season so special and there are far too many amazing people and families to thank for making that a reality. I have to thank Ian and Sonnet McKinnon and family, Ed and Maria Corley and family, Jack and Susan Kennedy, and the Nichols and Parr Group for their generous donations! Don’t forget to enjoy LOREN DILS park as well, a beautiful area named in honor of former Lobo coach and Alan Dils twin brother!
Some of the boys played last week in Midland which was a great event once again. Even the rain couldn’t put a damper on the spirit of the Lobos. They all competed with pride and energy and represented Albuquerque and UNM very well.
Coming up this weekend is the Jr. Davis Cup event and four Lobos will head down to Las Cruces, NM to take part in the annual NMSU Aggie Invitational. Everyone is ready to go.
Thank you all for your patience and your continued support. We will need to continue to lean on the mighty Lobo Nation all year as the college landscape is ever changing and unpredictable. We need to show the country that we have something special here. I personally want to see record crowds at all our matches this fall and spring for both the men’s team and the women’s team. The ITA has an annual “attendance race” and I see no reason with our fan base, our incredible facility, and our special student-athletes that we can’t crack the top ten this year! Lets all band together and turn up for these student athletes and show them how much we care about them and their success!
Stay with us all season as we update this blog weekly! As Always, Go Lobos!!!
Click HERE to support UNM Men’s Tennis
I haven’t forgot about you. It’s been a while since I’ve updated but I have so many things to talk about I thought I would do a pre-update build up blog :)
I will update you on:
-Alan Dils retirement from college coaching and 24 years coaching the Lobos
-McKinnon Family Tennis Center Update with new weight room photos. For those of you who don’t know we are building a new weight room where “Center Court” was at Estes Tennis Center.
-Me (Bart) taking over for Alan as the new Men’s Tennis Head Coach (dream come true)
-Hiring of former Lobo standout student-athlete, Ben Dunbar as my assistant.
-Summer tournament recaps
-Info on our Fall Schedule
This is shaping up to be a fabulous summer. We have a lot to be thankful about here in Lobo Tennis Land and I’m excited to share that with you all.
Thank you all so much for your support of UNM Men’s Tennis!
First of all, thank you all so much for your support this year. We’re all so glad you jumped on board in August on our “Road to Fresno State” for the Mountain West Conference Championships. It was a great ride. There were some major highs, and a few lows, but like always the guys played their best at the end to once again put the Lobos in contention for their 12th conference title.
The road to Fresno began with a new tournament in January. The Ned and Tina Jacobs Invitational. The Lobos started the year hot winning that tournament beating 2014 NCAA participant and three-time Southland Conference Champions Texas A&M Corpus Christi twice in the event. The very next match we pushed our record to 7-0 by beating another 2014 NCAA participant and Big West Champions Cal Poly.
From there we lost two very close home matches, both 4-3 to Utah and two-time defending Mountain West Conference Champion (who are #25 in the ITA Rankings) Boise State.
There were some heartbreaking losses along the way, as well as some gratifying wins (beating Fresno State on the road 4-3 when seemingly everything was working against us comes to mind)!
Heading into the conference tournament your Lobos were 18-7 and earned the #2 seed behind Boise State. The previous two years New Mexico came up one match short losing to Boise State in the finals in 2012 4-0 and 2013 4-3 and 7-6 in the third last match on.
UNM had three players receive All-Conference awards the night before the tournament got underway. The Lobos were led by Junior, Sam Iftikhar (who played a Davis Cup Tie for Pakistan in late early April) who made the All-MWC squad in both singles in doubles playing primarily in the #1 doubles spot and exclusively at #1 singles. Also earning All-MWC awards were Junior, James Hignett for doubles, and MWC Freshman of the Year, Hayden Sabatka! Sabatka, from Denver, Colorado became the fourth Lobo to earn MWC FOY honors behind former Lobos, Max Jones, Johnny Parkes, and Jadon Phillips.
UNM kicked off the 2014 tournament with familiar foe and conference travel partner Air Force. Air Force play very solid doubles, and attack, attack, attack. We have the utmost respect for their players, coaches, and program overall. These guys will grow to be some of the true leaders to come for our great country.
Needless to say we were prepared for a battle. It was neck and neck in doubles until finally we started to pull away. In the end our guys went for it when it counted and we racked up wins at #3 and #1 doubles.
Moving to singles, Iftikhar picked up a quick win at #1 singles, followed by doubles partner Hignett at #5 to set the table for #4 singles and Sophomore, Andy Van Der Vyver. VDV came through in straight sets to give UNM a 4-0 win over AFA and a date for the third year in a row with San Diego State in the Semi-Finals.
With a ton of rain the day before, the women’s tournament was backed up a bit. The UNM women won a quarterfinal match win Nevada then came through against SDSU to book a spot in the finals of the women’s championship. A huge congratulations to coach Erica and coach Kelcy for a great season and a job well done. It was great seeing them come through as well!
Because of the rain, we didn’t get on for our 2pm match time until after 4:30pm. We battled for 4hrs and 10mins against a very talented SDSU team. It was our third year in a row meeting these guys in the semis and for the third year in a row we came through. This time in DRAMATIC fashion.
UNM took the doubles point and raced to wins at #5 with Hignett winning 6-2, 6-0 and #3 with Freshman Rodolfo Jauregui (who won 30 singles matches this season) winning 6-2, 6-1. In between match wins for the Lobos though, SDSU picked up straight set wins on courts two, four, and six. With the match tied at 3-3 the spotlight fell on court #1 featuring player of the year candidates Iftikhar and Thorsten Bertch. SDSU took the first set 6-2, but Iftikhar broke at 4-4 to serve for the second set. SDSU hung tough and broke right back leveling the second set once again.
The match went to a second set tie breaker which saw Iftikhar down 6-5. This meant the match, and the season was on the line. Up to that point Sam had not hit a single penetrating shot from his backhand wing. This was part of the problem as to why he found himself down match point. Somehow he summoned the guts to go for an on the run, down the line, half desperation, half in the zone, backhand winner to level the tie breaker at 6-6. This broke Thorsten both in mind and body.
Mentally it can be debilitating to see the end of the tunnel, to have it be so close, then have it vanish away. SDSU was a backhand down the line away from heading to their first conference finals since 2010 where they fell to TCU. The very next point the two exchanged a very long rally where eventually UNM won the point. Bertch fell after the point and succumbed to cramps. His coach came out and started to stretch him where he received a time violation warning, his second warning to that point (which annoyed me because it should have been a point penalty right then and there).
SDSU somehow summoned the strength to keep fighting as well and the two warriors once again found themselves tied 9-9 and locked in another epic rally. Once again Sammy won the point which set up set point, but at the end of the 9-9 point Bertch fell again and cramped. The SDSU trainer came out and started to stretch the effected area. This is an automatic point penalty, however that was not called as he once again went over the allotted 20 seconds in between points. That violation was called and a point penalty was issued. This gave Sam the set 11-9 and set up a third set for all the marbles.
Because of Bertch’s physical condition Sam got off to a 3-0 lead, but SDSU would not fold…and we knew that. SDSU broke back at 2-4 in the third to get the match back on serve at 3-4. Sam dug deep though, broke and held to love pulling the match and the team match out, lifting the Lobos to a 4-3 win over SDSU. It was an awesome match that could have gone either way. As a coaching staff we were so proud to be a part of such a wonderful team effort.
We got out of there very late at night, got a bite to eat, and completely wired we all tried to get some sleep. The morning would bring two Lobo teams battling for the MWC Championship!
The finals against Boise State was more anti-climactic as I had hoped for. We all really thought it was our year. We tried to imagine ourselves holding that trophy, but in the end, Boise State, a top 25 team and 27-4 on the year were just too tough for us. They won the doubles point with wins at #2 and #3 and took control from the beginning of singles on three courts and never really let us back into the match.
It’s a credit to their staff, and their players. They were top 25, they knew they would be in the NCAA tournament regardless of the outcome of the match. That said, they could free swing and play loose and relaxed. We, on the other hand, knowing we had to win to get in were a bit tight to start the match and proved lethal.
I give our guys a ton of credit though, bouncing back after two tough losses in conference finals the last couple years to once again get back there to give themselves a chance to win it. That’s all we can do again. Dust ourselves off, get back to work, and try and go one further next year. Next year with the schedule we’ve put together we hope to enter the MWC tournament ranked inside the top 35 to ensure a spot in the NCAA tournament!
Finally, a nice treat today on Head Coach, Alan Dils’ birthday, he was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his illustrious career! Congrats to Alan and the guys for helping UNM bring home that award!
Thanks again so much everyone, please stay tuned as this summer we will stay in touch about camps, the new facility, our 2014 signing class, more “Where Are They Now” features, and much much more!
A special thanks to the staff at the Linda Estes Tennis Center, including club Director and my father, Bob Scott; Eric Turner, Lindsay Stansifer, and the rest of the LETC crew for all their support, racquet stringing, and court preparation! You guys are the best!!!
We’re so thankful to be a part of such a wonderful tennis community!
As Always GO LOBOS!!!!!!