International Students Give a Different Spin To Temple Tennis
Temple University's tennis program has a long tradition of excellence. Both the men's and women's teams have hoisted conference trophies and seen individual champions in their ranks. As the Owls play the 2016 season, one of the noteworthy elements of this edition is the international flavor.
Eight men and five women join the team from outside the United States. Many of them traveled similar paths to get into tennis, often through family connections. Both junior Anais Nussaume and men's graduate coach Maros Januvka grew up with the sport. Januvka's father played in his native Slovakia, while Nussaume's mother operated a tennis club in Thailand. Nussaume joined the sport reluctantly after watching her sister play.
"I started to play, I wasn't too bad at it, and I stuck with it, and I have been playing every day since I was 10," said Nussaume.
Tennis isn't very popular in Thailand so she spent her senior year playing in France. Both Nussaume and Januvka reached out to American universities and discovered Temple through recruiting.
Seven different countries are represented on the men's side and four on the women's side, with both teams boasting a pair from the same nation (Florian Mayer and Nicolas Paulus from Germany on the men's team, and Alina Abdurakhimova and Yana Khonfrom Uzbekistan on the women's). Oftentimes a coach will ask members of a current roster about players they've faced back home. As Januvka notes, "It's sometimes very hard when you recruit players outside the U.S. to know what their level is. When you have that roster of international students, it helps you bring in new players and assess what their skill level is."
Recruiting players from the same country or geographical region makes it easier for the transition of play and culture to the international players.
"Even if they don't speak the same language, they have some similarities and students will bond closer with each other. I think that helps to bring players on the team," Januvka said.
Even with fellow countrymen on a team, going from individual tennis in the junior ranks to collegiate play in America creates a challenge to most foreign student-athletes. Both Nussaume and Januvka spent time in Europe before coming to America and consumed American media, but the transition was a bit jarring. Januvka mentioned a noticeable difference was how people interact in the United States versus Slovakia.
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