Rice tennis is adapting to their new normal. Their biggest challenge: how to get an entire international team together for a meeting at the same time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted college athletics around the world. What should have been the spring season for Rice tennis was tabled just like everything else. Many players returned home, just like members of a slew of other athletic teams.
For many members of Rice tennis, though, home is a bit further than the average Rice athlete. The Owls have two Texans on their 10-man roster, one of which has now graduated and moved on. Of the other eight members (nine counting 2020 signee Trinity Grear), four of them make their homes in the United States. The remainder of the roster consists of international players.
Mohamed Abdel-Aziz is from the United Kingdom. Jacob Eskeland is from Norway. Karol Paluch is from Poland. Salmon Campbell is from Australia. A diverse roster isn’t unusual for the collegiate tennis, but it doesn’t have its challenges when it comes to working remotely.
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Coach Efe Ustundag has been forced to thread the needle when he wants to schedule time to chat with his entire team. 4:00 p.m. central time has become the window of choice. The team meetings then stretch from 2:00 p.m. local time in San Diego, to 11:00 p.m. local time in Norway and Poland to 7:00 a.m. local time in Melbourne, Australia.
It’s unconventional, especially compared to the hundreds of college sports teams who aren’t meeting simultaneously in the middle of the night and at the crack of dawn. But for Rice tennis, it works.
“A couple of the chats were clearly designed to catch up and let the guys be loose,” Ustundag said. “They haven’t seen each other for a while.” Each is led by a team member or a coach. Topics of the calls have varied widely from tennis specifics to mindfulness and time management.
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