BYU women’s tennis head coach Holly Parkinson Hasler and assistant coach Dillon Porter are determined to push their team to its limit as they work towards being ranked for the 2019-20 season.
While the tennis team has historically been a top-ranked program for consecutive years, it has not been ranked within the top-25 in the last 10 years. BYU’s new coaching duo said they are hoping to change that.
“There are lots of different areas in athletics that determine a good player and a good team,” Porter said. “I think that some of those things you are just born with; other things you can develop.”
Recently, the BYU women’s tennis team enforced a practice schedule that focuses on the physicality of the players and on the basic fundamentals of tennis.
The coaching duo has also decided to implement a new level of intensity for the women that will push their personal fitness and enhance stamina. If the players are unable to reach a certain level of intensity during their daily practice, Porter said, there are consequences that will follow, which will include fitness requirements like running.
“I think that if a player is confident with their technique, and is fit, they develop a sense of confidence mentally,” Porter said. “So going into a match, if I’m fit and I hit correctly, I can be out there for four hours if I want to. It totally changes your psyche going into competition.”
Both Hasler and Porter took the job for the BYU women’s tennis team in 2018. Their main goal was to provide enhanced dedication to the tennis team and the sport itself, which included motivating their players to engage in tennis throughout the year. While this new expectation shocked the team at first, it was at the beginning of the 2019 school year that the effects of the new work ethic became more noticeable.
“Last summer, when I came in as a new coach, unfortunately, I could tell that nobody really trained or practiced over the summer,” Hasler said. “It’s been a completely different turnaround because of the work ethic and the structure. I think they just knew coming in, ‘whoa, I need to be prepared this time around.’”
Recognizing the amount of diversity on the team, the coaches knew team unity would be another essential contributing factor to their success as a whole. Where unity can usually be found in commonalities, the tennis coaches needed to discover a different factor that would bring their team together.
Tennis is a unique sport as it depends on an international recruiting system. This year alone, one-third of the players were recruited from outside the United States. The three international players include senior Polina Malykh and junior Anastasia Abramyan from Russia and freshman Helen Jiao from China.
Hasler said she sat down with Porter and developed a list of activities that could develop team unity off the tennis court such as team dinners, hikes and retreats.
“(We thought of ways) we can pull the team together so that we are all united in our common goal of being the best tennis team in the country,” Porter said. “Even though we have differences like religion and foreign culture … those things don’t matter because when we come together as a team … we’re going to focus on the goals that we’ve set together.”
Apart from the extracurricular activities, freshman Emma Jewell said the most unifying thing for her has been the difficult team workouts that have been implemented by the coaches.
“I think it’s helped a ton with team unity … because the whole team’s doing it: the whole team is running and the whole team is doing weights,” Jewell said. “When you’re doing it together and you see everyone sweating and breathing hard, you’re like, ‘Okay, I can do this.’”
While the new coaching strategy may not be easy, Jewell said she believes it is worth the extra effort and that she is excited for the team’s hard work to pay off.