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Pro Climber, Pro Model: A Chat with the Talented Sierra Blair-Coyle

Pro Climber, Pro Model: A Chat with the Talented Sierra Blair-Coyle

She’s not your average climber, nor is she is your typical model. In fact, Sierra Blair-Coyle has managed to be quite successful in each environment. While my last couple of interviews at CoachTube have focused on a few of the mainstream sports with Shea Groom in soccer and Marcus Ginyard in hoops, this one was slightly different. Although it’s currently not on the level with some of those others, rock climbing is rapidly ascending. It takes a significant amount of physical strength, as well as mental fortitude. Interestingly enough, both of these traits are witnessed across many other sports. This is part of the reason why I always urge younger athletes to expand their boundaries and not center all their attention on one sport!

Rise of Climbing
When talking with Sierra, one thing I began to notice was the growth climbing has had. Not only has Sierra rose to the point where she has thousands of social media followers, but the sport is growing around the globe. In fact, the sport of climbing is attempting to get the nod to become an official sport in the 2020 Olympics. Whether or not the bid succeeds is questionable, but I believe it certainly reveals hope for the future. Through further research, I’ve learned the International Federation of Sport Climbing has proposed the Olympic event to be composed of three aspects: sport, bouldering, and speed.

A Little Background on Sierra
With over 300,000 likes on her Facebook page, it’s clear Sierra Blair-Coyle has plenty of fans. This large growth in following has been a direct result of her willingness to interact fans and reach the upper ranks of the climbing community. In a sport that allows you to participate in some unique locations, fans are always looking forward to following along with her next endeavor. Back in 2012, NFL star Jacoby Jones described the Ravens’ locker room culture by stating, “Work hard, be hungry and stay humble.” Based on my knowledge of Sierra, I’d say she fits all three phases of this. She continuously trains rigorously to be the best she can. She knows there is more to come and the road doesn’t stop now. Lastly, she isn’t afraid to recognize how she got started and show respect to all those cheering for her. Just as the Ravens ended up reaching their final goal by winning the Super Bowl, I believe Sierra will go down as one of the most well-known climbers in the world.


INTERVIEW

I had a chance to catch up with Sierra and discuss how she got into climbing and where she sees the sport going in the future.

Brandon Ogle: How did you get started with climbing and when did you begin to realize that you wanted to work towards climbing professionally?

Sierra Blair-Coyle: I tried climbing for the first time when I was 8 years old at an outdoor mall by my house.  I immediately fell in love with climbing and told my parents that I wanted to compete in climbing and become a professional rock climber!  In a way, I always wanted to be professional.  However, as time progressed and I continued to improve, I saw my dreams becoming reality.

BO: What does the normal training routine look like for a climber?

SBC: Everyone has a different training routine, and I know mine is constantly changing!  I am always trying to tweak it to make it better.  Right now, I climb 3 days on, take a rest day, then repeat the 3 day cycle.  On 2 of the 3 climbing days I also strength train.

BO: Just as regular, consistent strength training is vital for climbers, so is the correct diet. Could you breakdown that aspect of your training?

SBC: My diet is simple, I eat fruits, vegetables, and lean meats!

BO: Since you are technically a student athlete at ASU with your climbing career, could you give our readers a picture of how you manage this busy lifestyle?

Luckily my senior year at ASU has been more manageable so far, but it is still a very busy time for me.  I take as many online classes as possible and schedule my in-person classes on the same day or days.  This helps me focus on climbing while also balancing school.

BO: Every sport has their own potential injury risks. What are some of the typical ones, as well as some more serious potential injuries, that climbers have to be aware of?

SBC: The main injuries in climbing are finger injuries because you are putting so much stress on them.  Luckily, you can do many preventative exercises that help keep your fingers healthy.  In reality, the majority of the injuries that climbers sustain are not life-threatening.

BO: Could you describe how your social media presence has enhanced your climbing career in terms of sponsorship opportunities, etc.?

SBC: Social media has been a fun way for me to show people my life and some of my adventures.  I love being able to share what I am doing with people because I know how awesome it is when you find an inspiring person to follow on social media!

BO: Along with competing in rock climbing, do you or have you done in the past any other sports to complement your climbing aspirations?

SBC: I participated in other sports when I was younger, but climbing was always the sport that stuck for me!

 

BO: Despite climbing’s recent growth, it still trails other mainstream sports, like football and basketball, in popularity. Do you envision it continuing to garner more and more interest from younger kids or even potentially becoming an Olympic sport?

SBC: I know climbing will continue to grow, which is exciting to see.  So much has changed since I started climbing and I always enjoy seeing so many new people enter the sport.

BO: Every athlete understands the need to put all anxiety behind them when it comes time to compete. How do you stay calm in the moment, even when competing in a big event?

SBC: I treat a competition like it’s another day in the gym.  I want to do well of course, but I like to put myself in the mindset of where I am most comfortable, which is with my friends in Arizona.  I think about how much fun I have sessioning with my friends and the hard problems we try and send.  That is definitely my competition strategy, to just climb like I do when I am back home!

BO: Outside of the climbing community, who are some of your biggest inspirations from other sports?

SBC: At this point I admire all athletes, I know the hard work it takes to be on top of your game and I respect that.

BO: Lastly, in your own personal opinion, what would you consider to be the most enjoyable and most difficult aspects of climbing professionally?

SBC: Meeting people and seeing amazing places have been the most enjoyable aspects of climbing professionally.   As far as the most difficult aspects, training can be draining!  But you keep doing it because you love it and hard work is what makes you better!


I’d like to thank Sierra for participating in this interview and continue to wish her the best on her future aspirations.

Feel free to check out her:

Follow me on Twitter: @_BrandonOgle

Kansas City’s Next Big Sports Star

Kansas City’s Next Big Sports Star

For a sports fan in Kansas City, the landscape has never looked brighter. Fresh off coming a win away from taking the World Series crown, the Royals look primed for another postseason run. At the trade deadline, they acquired ace Johnny Cueto and super-utility man Ben Zobrist, thus looking like they’re all in. Meanwhile, currently in the midst of preseason, the Chiefs look to have plenty of potential as they head into the season. With Eric Berry recovered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there is plenty to be excited about as we await their week one matchup with the Houston Texans. As for soccer, Sporting Kansas City is starting to turn it on, as they sit in 3rd place of the Western Conference at the moment. Many players, including potential MVP Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer, have stepped up as they prepare for the postseason. Defending NWSL Champions, FC Kansas City, are proving to be elite as well, while they sit in 3rd place. With the recent return of the four members off the World Cup Championship team, there is plenty of buzz at Swope Soccer Village.

Alex GordonStars Making Their Mark
The commonality amongst all of these successful teams is the presence of stars. Players that put their mark on the sport they cherish.
The Royals have plenty of household names. From Eric Hosmer to Alex Gordon (left), these are players youngsters in KC can look up to. With the Chiefs, it’s hard not to admire the toughness of Eric Berry to the unique skillset of Jamaal Charles to the jaw-dropping sack totals from Justin Houston. Despite not having the history of the Royals or Chiefs, Sporting KC has quickly turned Kansas City into the soccer capital of the world behind homegrown star Matt Besler and fellow U.S. national teamer Graham Zusi. As for FC Kansas City, they are led by four members of the 2015 U.S. World Cup champion’s team, including Lauren Holiday, who has excelled at all levels.

The New Star
With each team, you look for the players that are still young, but the potential for greatness is clearly there. These are the players that will take the reign from their predecessors. One of these stars waiting in the wing is FC Kansas City’s Shea Groom. The former Texas A&M product has been a force on the pitch as just a rookie, racking up 4 goals in only 12 games. Over her college career with the Aggies, Groom put up 41 goals and 25 assists in 84 games. The 12th overall pick in the 2015 draft is originally from Liberty, Missouri and has made the transition from the college game to professional look seamless. Playing for your hometown team can be a difficult one for some players, but with the way Groom plays on the pitch, it almost looks like it’s re-energized her.


The Interview
Recently, I had a chance to catch up with Shea and talk about her transition from college to the pros, as well as the development of soccer within the United States.

Brandon Ogle: Soccer is quickly gaining steam throughout the United States, especially in cities like Kansas City and Chicago, but there hasn’t always been this much interest. What sparked your interest in the game? Has there been an inspirational figure in your life that helped guide this journey and your love for the game?

Shea Groom: I started playing soccer at an extremely young age, along with many other sports. Growing up in a household where my dad coached high school football & refereed Division 1 basketball, there was very little knowledge of the game of soccer. But over time, through some amazing experiences, I grew to love the game I continue to play today. It was amazing to grow up playing soccer in the generation I did. I have watched it develop and have experienced, first hand, the opportunities that women now have through this sport. It was players like Mia Hamm, Lauren Holiday, Amy Rodriguez, and Kristine Lilly who only increased my love for the game. But from the start my dad, Kelly Groom, is the person I credit my appreciation and love for any sport. He taught me how to be a passionate competitor and a great teammate. I wouldn’t be the athlete that I am without him.

BO: Often times in today’s age, we see kids choosing to focus all of their time on one sport. Whereas, you also participated in basketball and track in high school. Could you discuss how this helped you in soccer and essentially become a more all-around athlete?

SG: Even in the end, it was tough for me to give up playing other sports. But aside from my love for those sports, they were extremely helpful in my development as an athlete. I think it is essential to play other sports growing up because each sport requires different movements and skills that can be tough to learn at an older age. I think I gained an athletic edge by playing other sports. I also believe it humbled me at times and taught me how to be a good teammate and leader. I’m not sure I would be a professional soccer player today if I hadn’t played all those other sports growing up.

BO: You’re currently rehabbing a foot injury. Can you breakdown what the rehab process is like and tell us about any experiences you’ve had with teammates rehabbing significant injuries in the past?

SG: This is one topic that really hits home for me. Over my soccer career, I have experienced a lot of injuries. The major ones coming in college, 3 foot surgeries, 1 knee surgery and now a broken foot during my rookie season as a professional. But while those may seem like major disappointments and setbacks, those injuries have shaped my soccer career and I would not be where I am today without those moments when I got to really assess myself as a player. The recovery process really differs upon injury. My current foot injury has sidelined me for about 5 weeks now and I am finally starting to see some progress. But in general the most important part of the recovery process is being smart and giving your body the proper amount of time to heal. Now that my bone is almost fully healed, I am able to start jogging again and slowly returning to full play. But for me the physical part is not the hardest part of an injury. It is mentally exhausting and you often find yourself worrying about the things you cannot control. That being said, I feel that each of my injuries has pushed me to get to where I am at today. I was able to evaluate myself as a soccer player and take a moment to see my career in a bigger picture. I realized that I had to value every single moment I get on the soccer field. Whether that is at practice, during a game or on a deserted field at 6am and I’m doing extra work. Because in an instant it can all be taken away. I realized my goals and where I want to be. It brought out a drive and passion I did not know that I had. Each lit a fire in me to want more and to work harder. It has always been a challenge, but I have yet to be defeated.

BO: Offseason work is critical for all athletes, could you give our readers a look at your offseason training program?

SG: Offseason training is extremely important to an athlete’s development. Personally, I don’t usually stick to the same program each off season. I like to pick a few things that I really want to work on and figure out ways to train those things. It will always be important to get stronger by being in the weight room and staying in good shape by doing both long and short distance cardio, but I think the most important thing for soccer players is PLAYING! In the offseason, I just try to find any opportunity to play and get touches on the ball because at the end of the day, that is what distinguishes the greatest players in the world. Not your athleticism, your quickness, or your strength, but your ability to play the game.

BO: Over the years, it seems like every sport goes through various trends. In football, we’re seeing more up-tempo action with the spread offense and the Golden State Warriors proved small ball can be successful in the NBA. Having competed internationally with the U-23 team and in club competition with FC Kansas City, have you noticed any trends in the game or ways the game has changed?

SG: I definitely believe the game is becoming more possession oriented. Years ago, the US was so good because we had the best athletes in the world, but today the sport demands so much more than just good athletes. I think through all levels, coaches are training players to value possession and have emphasized technique and skill over the physical attributes that once held primary importance.

BO: In soccer, we see a variety of strikers have success on all levels. For instance in the women’s game, Abby Wambach possesses elite aerial ability and dominates defenders in the air, while fellow American Sydney Leroux uses her speed to her advantage. How much have you learned from watching other strikers in terms of improving your own ability at the striker position?

SG: I think you have to have that ONE thing that sets you apart from the rest. You can learn all you want from watching the US WNT, but you have to have something that makes you special and unique. Morgan and Leroux For me, I think I have a passion that is unmatched by any opponent. The kind of passion that finds the net in the last few seconds of the game, the kind of passion that reveals itself even during the friendliest of competition and a passion that, most importantly, cannot be coached. I watch players like Abby, Sid, Lauren, Alex, Amy (the list goes on) and I have learned so many things just from watching these players play at such a high level. They have taught me things such as having vision of the whole field, making extremely quick decisions in crowded spaces and scoring in a variety of ways. The greatest players in the world got to where they were by finding what sets them apart and developing that craft until they are the best at it. I could tell you each player’s niche on the National Team and I would bet that they worked every single day to improve that skill. Whether it be shooting, heading, crossing, technical training or passion, those players did it to the point of exhaustion every single day. And that’s why they are where they are and that’s where I one day hope to be.

BO: How has playing with veterans like Lauren Holiday, Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather O’Reilly, and Amy Rodriguez helped you grow as a player on and off the field in your rookie season?

SG: There is absolutely nothing like it. Not only are they amazing soccer players, they are amazing people. They have encouraged me and pushed me to make an impact even as a rookie. They are the best kind of teammates and I am sure there is no better practice environment in the world than with these 4. It’s always a competition and it is always a great time. I look up to each of them in so many different ways and it has been such a blessing to learn from some of the greatest players in the world.

BO: Some athletes like suiting up for their hometown team, while others like experiencing a new town to play professionally. How has your experience been playing for your hometown team, FC Kansas City? What has been the biggest difference between playing at Texas A&M and now in the NWSL?

SG: There is no greater feeling than getting to represent the city where you grew up. It’s just a different feeling.
An overwhelming sense of pride that washes over me every time I put on the jersey. There are so many opportunities that come with playing for your hometown. Not only do I experience an overwhelming amount of support, but I get to be a role model to young athletes that aspire to chase the same dreams that I once dreamed. Honestly, there is no greater feeling that reaching the highest level and getting to come back home and share it with the city that raised you.

I loved playing at A&M. The biggest difference is probably just the game. Everyone is good at this level and the competition to play is extremely steep. Not only is there competition between teams, but within them as well. Even getting a chance to play on a professional field is an accomplishment in itself and even then you have to work every single day to keep that spot. The league is also still developing and in many cases the conditions and playing surfaces aren’t always so glamourous. I was spoiled at A&M and it was amazing to experience the opportunities that women receive at the college level. I have no doubt that the league will continue to develop more opportunities and incentives for its players over time.

BO: With soccer being the international game it is, have you ever considered looking to play in Europe or another country overseas? If so, what would intrigue you about the opportunity? If not, what would you hold you back from making the move?

SG: I think I would definitely consider playing overseas. It is a much different style of soccer in some places and it would definitely be an adjustment, but I think it could only help my development as a player. That being said, I would love to continue playing here because I love the competition within the NWSL. The greatest players in the world are in this league and I want to be around that every day, learning and taking in all the information I can.

BO: Having most recently competed on the U-23 U.S. team, would you say your ultimate goal in this sport would be to make the National Team?

SG: Yes. There isn’t much else I can say than YES. After wearing the jersey and touching the crest for the first time, I have wanted to reach that level. It’s an exclusive club, but I want in. I know how difficult it can be to break through, but I am hungry for the opportunity and I will do everything in my control to put myself in a position to achieve that goal. There would be no greater feeling than playing for the United States of America.

BO: Since CoachTube focuses on helping out young athletes, what’s one piece of advice you could provide to young female soccer players?

SG: Believe in yourself. I hope that doesn’t sound too cheesy, because if there is anything that I have learned over the years, it’s that the most important thing is believing in yourself. If you plan on winning championships and writing history in this sport, you can never allow ANYONE to steal the belief you have in yourself to achieve those goals. There will be PLENTY of people that will tell you “you can’t”, but it just takes one person to prove them wrong. So believe in yourself and never stop chasing that dream that you have for yourself. Do extra, give everything and always dream big.

BO: Lastly, I don’t think the women’s soccer stage has ever been bigger on a national scale coming off the national team’s success at the World Cup. How do you expect this to affect the NWSL and the national view of women’s soccer in general?

SG: It’s incredible. The games are sold out, the fans are learning more about the game and people are taking notice!
I think it’s on the map and more people are recognizing our sport. I can only hope that it continues to catch fire and the league receives more support so that it gets better for everyone. These women are amazing athletes and should be recognized at the same level as other professional sports. I think winning the World Cup has begun to make that dream possible for this sport.

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Key Takeaways

Overcoming Injury
Pele, a true legend in the history of soccer, once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” While this quote could apply to many areas of life, I find it particularly important in the world of sports. Upon hearing Shea talk about her soccer career, it became clear the passion she has for the game. Anyone that has sustained a significant injury understands the pain from the rehab process. Just the thought of not being able to be on the field with your teammates can be a painful one. Over the course of Shea’s collegiate and professional career, she’s sustained major injuries. Her response: attacking the rehab process just as if it were a game.

Student of the Game
Even one of the greatest athletes in the world, LeBron James, has admitted he’s truly a student of the game. He carefully observes how his peers and those before him play, before finding out ways to implement these moves into his own game. For a rising soccer player in the United States, who better to study from than the U.S. women’s national team? By both playing with and against these players in the NWSL, she’s learned to make her game more dynamic as a forward. While she’s learned plenty from stars like Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach, she also understands she possesses one trait that has the ability to set her apart: her pure passion for the game.

Bigger Stage
Soccer, in general, has had a difficult rise to gain popularity within the United States. Particularly, in the women’s game, where previous leagues have failed to remain active for multiple years at a time, it’s been difficult to match the powerhouses of football, basketball and baseball. However, it appears things might finally be changing. Shea mentioned two things that I think stand out: sold out games and fans becoming more knowledgeable. First off, a key barometer of a successful sports league is increased attendance numbers. Since the World Cup triumph and throughout this season, NWSL ticket sales have slowly increased. An example of this increase comes from a recent Portland Thorns match where they sold 21,144 tickets. If that number is of any indication, it’s clear the NWSL is on the right track! For the second concept she mentioned, in order for a sport to achieve sustained success, you need fans in place that understand how the game should be played. Otherwise, you’ll see people that just watch one or two games a year. The goal is to amass fans that follow the team from start to finish.

Staying Humble
When the average person thinks of a professional athlete, it’s easy to see that some of these players have egos. No matter the sport, you’re going to have players that are very good at their respective sport and aren’t afraid to let others know. I’ve met athletes before that have been on both sides of this trait. However, it appears Shea has managed to stay humble, despite her immediate success in the NWSL where she’s already won a Player of the Week award. Her answers to the above questions back this up as well. She gives plenty of credit to the veteran leaders and isn’t hesitant to recognize the impact of fans. At the same time, she understands how her current position can serve as a role model to many youngsters in Kansas City and around the United States.

 

I’d like to thank Shea for participating in this interview and continue to wish her the best as she continues her career in the NWSL and wherever else it may take her!

Follow Shea on Twitter @sheabayy2

Feel free to follow me on twitter @_BrandonOgle and let me know what you think about the future of the NWSL.

Chatting With Tennis Pro Bruce Connors

Chatting With Tennis Pro Bruce Connors

Tennis great Billie Jean King once said, “Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.” Despite the game’s evolution, this quote from King is still valid. Tennis is an ever-changing contest with consistent principles. In recent years, the game of tennis has not only changed in terms of style of play, but the complete globalization of the sport. Increasingly, players are popping up from all around the world looking to prove they’re an elite player

Student of the Game
Learning from the Best: One of the concepts that stuck out to me during the interview with Bruce was his time training under Harry Hopman. While not every young player can receive the guidance of an individual like Mr. Hopman, it is important to have a knowledgeable coach. Hopman would go on to coach many other tennis greats, including John McEnroe. Even the greatest players in the game are humble enough to employ former greats as their personal coaches, as evidenced by Novak Djokovic hiring Boris Becker.

Paying It Forward: Many of the attributes Bruce learned from Hopman have been passed on to Bruce’s students. As the Director of Tennis at Westward Look, Bruce is looking to make both young and older players aware of the trends in the game. Even though you can learn a lot about tennis from game-practice, being around other players and hearing tips from veterans can go a long way towards developing one’s game. Mr. Connors’ actions have effectively passed on the legacy of Harry Hopman.

Cardio Tennis
Another area that Bruce is extremely passionate about is cardio tennis. Described as “a high energy fitness activity that combines the best features of the sport of tennis with cardiovascular exercise, delivering the ultimate, full body, calorie burning aerobic workout,” cardio tennis is one of the focal points of Mr. Connors’ new position at Westward Look. The importance of endurance in tennis can’t be understated. If a player isn’t able to keep their energy up for an entire match, chances are they’ll start to struggle after the first set. The unique thing about cardio tennis is it can be utilized for anyone looking to improve their overall fitness and fine-tune the technical aspects of tennis.

The Interview
I recently caught up with Bruce Connors to break down some of these trends.

Brandon Ogle: First off, would you mind telling us a little about your new position as Director of Tennis at Westward Look?

Bruce Connors: I am privileged to be working in such beautiful surroundings at Tucson’s first resort. My goal is to improve on programming and to promote all that Westward Look has to offer as a resort and members’ club.

BO: Could you briefly discuss the cardio tennis trend and the benefits it could provide to young tennis players? Who would you recommend to take on cardio tennis?

BC: Cardio tennis describes a type of clinic in which the participants achieve an aerobic workout as well as a focus on the fundamentals of tennis. Every instructor has his or her unique style and lesson plan; therefore, each class has its own distinctive feel. The key to a successful class is when the participants feel as though they have had a physical workout while they worked on the basics of their game. Cardio tennis is beneficial to all players – both young and old. It helps young players increase their endurance.

BO: Would you say cardio tennis should be used in addition to playing regular tennis or do you see cardio tennis becoming much more popular than playing standard singles/doubles matches for practice?

BC: Cardio tennis is to tennis as, for example, spinning is to cycling – it’s a workout as well as a way to improve one’s game. It does not replace match play. Competing in matches verses training in a clinic is very different. Simply put, a player tends to be more relaxed in a drill situation when the results are not as big of a factor.

BO: After watching some of the majors in recent years, do you notice any trends in styles of play that juniors should take note of?

BC: The physicality of the game has escalated along with the racquet and string technology, thus making tennis more powerful than ever. Perhaps the reintroduction of the serve and volley should be a trend to which juniors should take note.

BO: As of this current moment, American tennis is struggling on a national level, particularly on the men’s side. What do you think needs to be done to help even out this separation? Is it just a result of not enough Americans being interested in tennis in their youth or something else?

BC: Unfortunately American tennis has lost some ground as far as the world ranks are concerned. The European countries have invested a lot in their tennis development programming, geared toward aspiring young talent. On the other hand, American youth have so many other sports and recreation choices, not to mention non-athletic entertainment options, leading to a lack of drive for tennis in some circumstances.

BO: Since grass and clay courts aren’t as common in the United States, how would you recommend players prepare themselves for these surfaces in case they do get placed in a tournament on clay or grass?

BC: In order to prepare for softer playing surfaces when those surfaces are not readily available in practice situations, the shots that are utilized more effectively on those surfaces can be modified for the hard court. Putting spins on the ball, thereby mixing up play, would be an example of a technique that is useful on clay and grass, but that can also be incorporated into hard court play.

BO: What was your favorite surface to play on and why did it intrigue you?

BC: The answer to that question depends on the match and on the opponent. I enjoy clay surface due to the variety of shot-making options. Angles, drop shots, and lobs make use of more on the clay court. On the other hand, hard surfaces tend to be more linear, complimenting more aggressive serve and volley play.

BO: While other sports like basketball have programs such as AAU to showcase talents, what is there available for young tennis players to do the same and gain attention of college recruiters?

BC: The junior ranking system still gives college coaches a good amount of information on players and tournament results, giving insight to recognize rising talent.

BO: Having played collegiately at the University of Arizona in the 1980s, do you think the collegiate tennis world has changed much since then?

BC: I would say, as the game itself has evolved, inevitably so has collegiate tennis. A college match has always consisted of six singles and three doubles matches. In order to quicken play and make matches more spectator-friendly, the playing of let serves and the eight-game pro-set for doubles were introduced in the mid-90s.

BO: From watching younger players compete, I’ve noticed one thing they often have difficulty with is mastering the serve. Do you have a few pieces of advice to simplify the process of learning to serve?

BC: The serve hasn’t changed much in form. Keeping the motions smooth and tossing to the swing are key, as well as working on timing and racquet speed. The classic figure of eight motion will help any player understand fluidity of motion. A consistent toss is a must.

(For some additional information on learning how to serve, CoachTube offers some terrific courses for serving tips. One great resource is Serve in 30! by Lisa Dodson.)

BO: In today’s game, it seems like there is a dying breed of pure serve and volley players. Why do you think this trend has occurred; and, as an instructor, would you still encourage players to add this approach to their arsenal?

BC: Every player’s goal should be to have a well-rounded game. Serve and volley is one aspect of this; and, it can be very useful to change the pace in a match. One reason it may not be used as often now is there is so much power in the game that it is harder to approach the net.

BO: Have you ever dealt with an injury or seen a teammate rehab from a major injury? How would you describe the overall process and the struggle to get back on the court?

BC: I have been fortunate to not have had any serious injuries. Prevention of injury by proper strength training and stretching routines is beneficial. Knee problems are a common issue among club players. Rehabbing can take time and requires dedication, so primary prevention is paramount. Getting back on the court after an injury can be as much of a mental struggle as it is physical.

BO: Having trained with the great Harry Hopman as a junior, could you briefly discuss the importance that a quality coach brings to a player’s development? What would you say to parents who are looking for coaches available for their son or daughter?

BC: The method that Mr. Hopman utilized emphasized fitness over stroke production. What works for one player may not work for another player. I do remember one piece of advice he routinely gave in training drills. He would say, “If you can get to the ball that is out, you should be able to get to the one that is in.” We all have different personalities, so finding the right coach who knows how to motivate the inner drive of a player is the goal.

BO: As a player who has gone through the ranks of the tennis world, what would you say is the most difficult thing you’ve had to deal with as a tennis player?

BC: To be completely honest, the thought of not having reached my potential as a player due to circumstances in my life beyond my control at certain times still tortures me.

BO: Lastly, do you think we’re witnessing the greatest male (Roger Federer) and female (Serena Williams) players of all time?

BC: My opinion is that Roger Federer exemplifies the model to which a tennis player should strive – as a player and as a person. Serena Williams has developed such an outstanding persona both on and off the court. Surely they both merit a place in history as players at the top of their sport.

Thank you to Mr. Connors for participating in this interview and feel free to check out Westward Look for more information on the resort.

 

Marcus Ginyard Talks AAU Ball, Roy Williams, and Playing Professionally

Marcus Ginyard Talks AAU Ball, Roy Williams, and Playing Professionally

Born in Rochester, NY, Marcus Ginyard has had quite the ride throughout his basketball career. From playing on a star-studded AAU team in his teens to playing college ball with the UNC Tar Heels, one of America’s elite basketball powerhouses, Ginyard’s skills on the hardwood speak for themselves.

During his stay at North Carolina, Ginyard racked up a reel of honors thanks to his defensive prowess and was a member of the 2009 National Championship team. After going undrafted, Ginyard chose to take his talents overseas and play professionally in Germany, where he averaged 11 points a game with BBC Bayreuth.

For his second season, Marcus signed on with Ironi Nahariya in Israel and quickly excelled, averaging of 21 points and 7 rebounds a game. In his third season, he made it back up to a top division in the Polish Tauron Basket Liga, playing with Anwil Wloclawek. Marcus led his team to the semi-finals and once again was a double-digit scorer.

He later signed with BC Azovmash of the Ukrainian Superleague, averaging over 15 points a game and putting together yet another effective campaign in overseas hoops. He is now back in the states, playing for the Westchester Knicks of the NBA D-League.

Growing as a Player
While playing in Chapel Hill, Marcus Ginyard was largely known as a defensive-stopper. He was a coach’s dream – willing to work hard, make the hustle plays, and devote his energy to neutralizing the opposition’s most dangerous scorer.

As his career has progressed, the rest of Ginyard’s game has gradually elevated to the level of his defensive prowess. Ginyard has become an effective, efficient scorer on the offensive end and has rounded himself out as a complete player.

Serving as a Role-Model
In today’s world, most kids look up to their favorite athletes. While not all athletes embrace the responsibility of being a role model, Marcus Ginyard has chosen to make his life a positive example.

Along with his talents on the court, Marcus has been a consistent advocate for education and academics. While playing at UNC, despite the pressures and spotlight of a national championship victory, Marcus completed his bachelors degree in Communications.

He also hosts an annual basketball camp in Alexandria, VA designed to work on the fundamentals and provide a fun learning experience for kids.

 

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Marcus and discussed various things about his basketball journey.

BO: Could you describe the role your older brother, Ronald, had in your growth as a player?

MG: My brother has played a very important role in my growth as a young player, and even now as a professional. He was an assistant coach at my high school for my last two years, which was a huge boost for me. It was a blessing to be coached by someone I had such a strong relationship with. It was much easier for me to take criticism and direction from someone I knew wanted the best for me. Even to this day, my brother works me out in the off-season.

BO: You played on an AAU team with guys like Ty Lawson and Roy Hibbert. How much importance do you think teen basketball players should put on playing in the AAU circuit based on your experience?

MG: My experience in AAU will be significantly different than the experience that young teens will have now. The atmosphere has changed drastically. For me, it was a very effective way to be surrounded with top players, and play against top competition. When I was coming up, the AAU circuit was one of the best ways to showcase your talents for the college coaches.

BO: After breaking your wrist before your freshman season at UNC, can you break down the rehab process that got you ready for the start of the season?

MG: I had surgery on my wrist in August of 2005 and was cleared for the first practice in October. My rehab process was very intense, but we had to be aggressive if I wanted to be available for all of my basketball activities. After placing a screw in my bone, there was no question about the strength of the bone, the only issue was my mobility and range of motion. The great thing about a hand injury is that I could still condition and keep myself in pretty decent shape. Throughout my injury, I continued to lift weights one handed.

BO: At UNC, you were coached by Roy Williams. As a lifelong Jayhawk fan, I know plenty about Coach Williams. What would you say separates him from other coaches in college basketball and how did he put you in the right place for success?

MG: I think what separates him the most is his passion for the game along with the passion for his players. He cares deeply about how his players progress as players and as people. His resume speaks for itself, but ask anyone about his or her time with Coach Williams, and everyone will have great things to say about his character. The game of basketball is such a great teacher for life, and Coach Williams always taught us how to approach our games and our lives with intensity, integrity and passion.

BO: Being a defensive stopper, is there any player currently in the NBA who you see resemblances from your game? Do you believe every team needs a guy that can go out and shut down (or at least throw them off their rhythm) a Kevin Durant or LeBron James?

MG: There are a few players that come to mind. Matt Barnes and Tony Allen come to mind first. I do believe every team needs a player that not only defends well, but takes a high level of pride in stopping their opponent.

BO: In a landscape mired by one-and-done’s, could you tell our readers how important it was for you to stay all four years and get a degree? Also, what would you tell younger guys that think about leaving early, despite the draft situation not being entirely clear, maybe like Aaron Harrison (Kentucky) or Christian Wood (UNLV) from this most recent draft?

MG: The one and done situation is a very difficult thing to navigate. I am extremely blessed to have completed my school and earned a degree from UNC. Getting an education was the top priority for me going into college. For the younger guys that are thinking about leaving early, I would say to find a very small team of trusted individuals to help make the decision. Those people are not the same for every player. For some players their families may take them in the wrong direction, for others they will keep them grounded. But in the industry of professional sports, there is only a small window of time that you can earn a living with your body being in its prime, which makes things a bit more complicated.

BO: How would you compare playing overseas versus in the United States?

MG: I have absolutely loved playing overseas. It’s an incredible opportunity to see the world, play a game you love, and earn a living at the same time. I’ve been lucky to play for some great organizations, and for enthusiastic and supportive fans in countries I had never been to. In the last 5 years, I have been able to travel to over 25 countries as a result of being a professional in Europe.

BO: Many players might be hesitant to play overseas due to the language barrier. Was this much of an issue for you during your various stops?

MG: This was a non-issue. It’s good to be out of your comfort zone.

BO: Lastly, you’re back in the States now playing with the Westchester Knicks of the D-League. What ultimately made you want to return and is playing in the NBA your ultimate goal for your basketball career?

MG: I am not currently playing for Westchester, but I did spend some time with them last season. At the time, the D League looked like a good option for me to play, and to be closer to an opportunity to break through into the NBA. My ultimate goal is to play at a high level. I am not fixated on the idea of playing in the NBA. Having a chance to play in the NBA would be a dream, but not playing in the NBA does not make my basketball career a failure.

 

I’d like to thank Marcus for participating in this interview and wish him the best in the future.

For more from Marcus, check out MarcusGinyard.com or follow him on Twitter @MG1NYARD