The cultural diversity of one team

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Photo of the 2016 tennis team, courtesy of head coach Tim Smith with his players.

When people think and hear of Marist College, diversity is not always the first aspect that comes to mind. But ever since Tim Smith started head coaching the men’s tennis team he has created a melting pot of sorts since the early 2000’s. It really is something unique to have one of the smallest sport teams have one of the most diverse population on campus.

Many times this fact goes unnoticed on campus, but that doesn’t bother any of the international student-players. Most are thrilled to be playing in the United States so close to one of the largest cities in the world. For some of the players this experience of attending college in the United States is their first time in the country ever.

With taking such a big risk and moving to a new country for potentially the next four years of life, this can sound unsettling to some but most the time the players said it was the team unity that helped get them through the first month or so of major home transitioning. Often times when people outside of the United States think of the state of New York, Manhattan comes to mind but as many of you already know Marist College is a 90-minute train ride away.

Assistant coach Ron Lane discussed the importance of making the international students feel welcomed when they arrive on campus saying that he “encourages the rest of the team to act as a family for the new players, to feel comfortable and assimilated onto the campus.”

The coaches feel that the better acquainted the new players are, whether domestic or international the more likely they are to perform at the highest level on the tennis court. With the sport being such a mental game it is important that the players do not have many other distractions such as home sickness. Head Coach Tim Smith repeatedly discussed the excellence of the international orientation program being responsible for getting his players adjusted onto campus so quickly.

“In the beginning there was only two international students on the team and now I have recruited from 28 states and 27 countries,” coach Smith had a huge grin on his face when he talked about how much has changed since he began coaching. Looking into that statistic coach Smith is responsible for having maybe the most diverse team at Marist College, and his players couldn’t be happier to play for him.

For team captain and junior tennis player Rudi Corto of Austria he has embraced the new culture for the past three years, even saying he “enjoys spending more time on the Marist College campus than the surrounding area.” As the leader of the team he discussed the significance of making new recruits feel like they are at home, a feeling he has now developed towards Marist. Whether it’s encouraging all his teammates to eat meals together at the dining hall or going to each other’s dorm rooms, he wants to create the most team oriented feel from day one.

Switzerland native and Marist College junior, Timo Tanzer could not agree more with Rudi adding in that in the beginning “it helped having other international students sharing the same experience as me and having tennis as a common interest and love for the sport.” Transitioning onto Marist College campus seems to be much easier for all the foreign players when they realize that so many of their teammates are in similar situations as them.

To be exact the majority of the team this year is international, uncommon for the school as mentioned earlier, so it would only be fair to get the United States citizens opinion on being a minority on their college tennis team. As expected, they all had good things to say about their teammates starting off with Dylan Fletcher from Massachusetts saying “I never felt like the odd person out on the team, but it was definitely different to be a minority on the team.” Fletcher also mentioned the role he plays as the unofficial guide for the team and helping the foreign players adjust to the new culture they are in.

“Living in a global society we need players from international backgrounds,” said coach Smith as we came to the conclusion of the interview. This final part displayed some of the motivating factors behind his decisions to go overseas and finding players from all over Europe, South America and farther beyond.

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