Fuzzy Yellow Ball, Great Big World

by Alex Linden, sports information director

No sport in America combines the global and the local more than tennis.

No sport in America combines the global and the local more than tennis. The men’s matchup that American fans anticipate the most pits a Spaniard against a Swiss. And the top women’s matchup involves two American athletes who grew up in the same house.

NWU tennis is just as local and just as global. This year’s teams have student athletes from familiar places like Lincoln, Fremont and Grand Island, Neb.—and from not-so familiar places like Kawanishi City, Japan, and Delbrueck-Boke, Germany.

And with four Nebraskan tennis players studying abroad in Chile, Egypt and Sweden this past fall, even the locals are international students.

Chelsea HensleeThese global athletes are part of teams with a tradition of success at NWU. The men and women are a combined 65-7 in Great Plains Athletic Conference play over the past five seasons under coach Rick Harley. They have seven GPAC titles in that time and haven’t finished lower than second place since 2004.

But team chemistry is fragile. International study means time away from coaches and teammates. New environments inevitably change training routines. Will time abroad hinder the teams’ formula for success?

Eric HolmesSophomore Chelsea Henslee doesn’t think so. Henslee, who earned All-GPAC honors her first season in 2008, studied Spanish language and Chilean culture and history in Chile. She thought her experience helped her in life and on the tennis court. “Emotionally and mentally, I grew so much when I was down there that it changed my tennis game as well as my life,” she said.

Senior Eric Holmes agreed. “I think [study abroad] gave me a wider perspective on life and [taught me] to value all the relationships that I’ve made on campus more,” said Holmes who studied in Sweden. “It’s funny how we take for granted being able to simply communicate with another person.”

Lexie ZouchaAnd being overseas doesn’t mean an end to training. Lexie Zoucha and Henslee practiced with a university men’s team in Vina del Mar, Chile, because the women didn’t have one.

Becca Brown encountered some problems with her workouts in Cairo, Egypt. “After Ramadan, the hours that women could be in the gym changed to mid-afternoon when I had class, so I was out of luck,” Brown said. “Since the air outside was so polluted our residence directors recommended that we not run outside because it was bad on our lungs.”

Daisuke NaitoCoach Harley was also pleasantly surprised with the two men’s exchange players. Daisuke Naito (3) from Japan and Marcel Wolke from Germany both joined the team after seeing NWU players work out in the fall. Both Naito and Wolke saw time on varsity for the NWU men in the spring.

Though Harley would have liked to have his players on campus for the fall season and workouts, he knows their travels were priceless opportunities. Tennis is a global sport; its players here deserve a global education.