Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My favorite thing...

As a coach, there are things that I like about each of my players. During the senior appreciation weeks, I want to highlight my favorite thing about each senior. It seems a good way to sing their praises, and for those who are still on the team to learn something from them.

Ben Mast has many good qualities that served him well in playing tennis. He focused well, controlled his emotions, practiced hard. But the thing that endeared him to me the most as a coach was his ability to listen.

I cannot count the number of times that Ben did exactly what I said, whether coaching him through the chain link during a match or talking to him in my room during the offseason. Between his junior and senior year, I talked to him about dominating matches by attacking. He needed to work on his approach and his finishing volleys to really be able to put pressure on his opponents. Ask any of the 18 opponents he demolished this year if he attacked well. Or just watch the tape of his Sectional match against Stefan Baumgartner.

During the offseason, I told him he needed to pick up the pace of both first and second serve. He rarely aced players or had an easy time holding serve during his junior year at number one. Guess who had our biggest serve this season, as far as speed, placement and consistency were concerned?

And during matches, I rarely talked to Ben, but when I did, he listened and it made a difference. I remember during his most intense match of the season, he was down in the first set to Westview's Steven Blinco. It was windy and Ben was simply missing the aggressive shots he was trying to attack behind. I told him to keep the ball in the court and only attack when he knew that he couldn't miss. Ben rallied during the last two games of the first set, and then won the last two sets 6-3, 6-0. Throughout the whole of the rest of the match, you could see him meticulously performing the very strategy we talked about at the fence. Ball in the court, over and over, until it was certain that he would put the point away.

Even to this blog, Ben is a listener. Much of last season, I posted here about the type of player that I wanted to see us Bruins become. Attacking under pressure, confident, dominant, with a killer instinct. I posted advice about shots, match memories, stats that were sure to come true. Ben followed it all. And I would said that he embodies so much of what I hope for in the Bruin tradition because of that.

Yep, my favorite thing about Ben Mast is that he listens.

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