BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | AUGUST 21, 2009 7:07 AM
It is a common saying in sports that the off-season is where the most work gets done — where each person on the team can improve himself and lift the team to the next plateau.
Nowadays, it seems as though elementary-schoolers have personal trainers and follow elaborate regimens to help them prepare for the next T-ball season.
But instead of spending hours upon hours on the court, running sprints, and slaving over every detail, the members of the Iowa men’s tennis team are employing a more laid-back approach to off-season training between late April and early September.
Other than a few check-ins from Iowa head coach Stephen Houghton, who was unable to be reached for comment, tennis players are free to prepare themselves however they choose.
One of the most common ways they stay in shape outside of the college season is entering open tournaments. Sophomore Mitch Beckert attended several over the summer and was pleased with what he took away from them.
“I had a really good summer for tournaments — won a couple and had a couple good scoring tournaments,” he said.
Without a rigid program to follow during the off months, the tennis players tend to work on their own with the understanding that on their return to school, they will be in shape to compete when the season opens.
“It’s pretty much like you do your own thing,” senior Patrick Dwyer said. “But believe me, everyone knows you need to come back in shape for those first two weeks of practice.”
One reason for such a relaxed environment is the players’ inability to remain near each other, because many of their hometowns range from Davenport to Tucson, Ariz., and Moscow, spreading the team out for much of the summer.
Despite that, the off-season generates several summer stories about tournaments and training, which teammates share when they get back into Iowa City.
“The fun thing about getting back to school is seeing everyone from the team and hearing about the tournaments they’ve been in,” Dwyer said.
The one thing that keeps the tournaments regional is the time and money required for the players to attend the higher-profile national tournaments.
Dwyer’s reason for not entering many of those larger tournaments was simply because of a lack of resources and an inability to take time off work to participate in camps, tournaments, or a training session.
The way the men’s tennis team prepares for each season is very much a throwback to a time when simply playing the game was enough to get ready to compete against the best in the nation, which is precisely what Iowa will do when it takes on top-ranked Baylor on Jan. 29 in Waco, Texas.
But are Beckert, Dwyer, or any of the other Hawkeyes worried about their preparation?
“I think that we’re the one of the best-conditioned teams in the Big Ten, if not the best,” Dwyer said. “Everyone knows that, and we are ready to achieve our goals.”