Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Harvard Men's Tennis: News and Views

Harvard Men's Tennis:  News and Views


In this Issue

Back to School with Pete Stovell

Chris Clayton Journal Entry on the H-Y Weekend

Coaches visit the Celtics


Butorac, Rueb, Fish at Celtics

Authors Stovell and Clayton practicing posing for their next "book jacket" portraits, at H-Y reunion with coaches


We've had some special visitors the last few weeks to campus.   Former captain and energizer bunny, Pete Stovell '93, was in town on business and dropped by practice with his rackets.  We've included the email he dashed off to us after his hit with the team (used with his permission).   It was a rare treat to have Pete back on the courts in Cambridge and he left his mark on the guys after only a few hours.   Chris Clatyon '09 came to town for a long weekend during the H-Y game and his imprint can still be felt in the locker room.  The team got to see what real energy and dedication looks like in the example of "Colonel" Clayton.  Now, the bar has been raised and they have to find a way to tap into their passion to fill the energy void left in his wake.  And Dan Waldman '77 has been a frequent visitor to the courts now that he is lecturer at Harvard Law School on derivatives.   His veteran experience and court savvy has been a real plus.   Dan can still battle with the boys and took some ground stroke games from the youngsters.   


We thought it would be great to hear of the "Back to School" experiences through the reflections of Pete and Chris.


Back to School with Pete Stovell


Dear Dave, Andrew, and the Harvard Men's Tennis Team,


Thank you so much for allowing me to crash your practice yesterday.


It was a thrill to meet more of the team and to get to hit some balls with the guys.  No doubt the fellas were intimidated by my tee shirt-from my son's pre-school.  Incredibly they seemed to get over it fairly quickly, and I was promptly put in my place.  The place being about 5 feet behind the baseline desperately trying to track down lasers and bending balls and drop shots until I felt like throwing up.  Which took about 5 minutes.


I am on a business trip this week and am trying to make smart decisions for my business.  The smartest thing I have done this week was plant myself in a corner and tell Nicky he had to hit TO me and that HE had to run side to side.  I still almost got my racket knocked out of my hand by his thumping backhand.


I loved seeing my old friends (Dave and Andrew) and a new buddy (the great Chris C).   My quick trip to those beautiful courts meant the world to me.  When I think of what Harvard tennis means to me it always comes back to the friendships.  They endure through time and are part of what make life so extraordinary.


I will sign off with a quote from a book on. . . . gasp. . .  golf.  Despite the book covering the wrong sport, I think the quote is beautiful and captures much of what Dave has built with our wonderful program.


"Games are central to the human experience.  Outlets for aggression, universal forms of entertainment, metaphors for the struggle to survive.  The cathartic experience of participating in a hard fought contest takes us one step closer to an understanding of our mysterious, questing nature.  The old saw leaned on by coaches in professional sports that their game builds character doesn't always hold true, when winning is the only thing and rules are only there to be bent or broken in service of that goal.  Golf (TENNIS!!!!)  alone demands a self-administered adherence to its rules, and along with its other more palpable benefits, that discipline does contribute something of measurable value to the human heart: self-reliance, restraint, courtesy, purpose, humility, and pride in authentic achievement.  This legacy of excellence is golf's (TENNIS'!!!!!) greatest gift to us, and the men in this book saw to it that it has been passed down through the generations."  The Greatest Game Ever Played- Mark Frost.



Back to School Reflections with Chris Clayton


On Thursday afternoon, I arrived in Boston for the 129th edition of Harvard-Yale Game.  A week before the flight, I was working as a law clerk in Tampa, FL on a presidential campaign, and before that completed my first year of law school at Santa Clara University.  My candidate didn't win so I used the opportunity to enjoy an extended weekend at my alma mater for the first time in three years since I graduated in 2009.  I exited the station and walked to a favorite spot on Mount Auburn – Boloco's - and ordered a Cajun burrito and Jimmie Carter shake, an old team favorite.  With carry-on luggage and lunch in hand, I walked down JFK towards the Murr Center on the other side of the river.


I opened the doors to the Murr Center tennis courts looking forward to meeting the 2012-2013 HMT Team before Dead Period captain's practice started.  I was almost too late.  Dave Fish '72, the Scott Mead '77 Family Head Coach, was already halfway through a hopper of balls that he was feeding to freshman Nicholas Mahlangu on court #1.  Assistant Coach Andrew Rueb '95 was about to start a session on court #2.  Volunteer Assistant Eric Butorac was running the boys through some doubles drills on court #3.  I cut through the backcourt screen and Andrew hit me with a huge welcoming hug.  I met the remaining freshman that included Conor Haughey, Nicky Hu, and Kelvin Lam.  I also met sophomore, Alex Steinroeder ("Stein").  Before he played for Harvard, I watched him compete in New England USTA events.  I met sophomores Shaun Chaudhuri and Denis Nguyen during the summer off-season and it was good to see them again on the Murr courts for the first time.


The players paired up and jogged towards the baselines to begin hitting.  I went upstairs to sit on the wooden bleachers and noticed a few new things.  The courts were resurfaced.  They are now colored blue and green, like the U.S. Open.  The team was wearing gray Nike workout shirts similar to those we wore my junior and senior year but without the "Veritas" crest (I like the new shirts – any available online for alums?).  Above court #1, the Men's Ivy League Championship and NCAA Tournament banners displayed a new year: 2012.


I walked downstairs to the new Palandjian Team room and saw that the Ivy League Championship trophy was back on the shelf.  The framed photos on the walls were mostly HWT and HMT players that were on the team in 2008 and 2009.  I entered the adjacent room to change and opened a locker.  I knew it was mine because it still had the "No Whining" sticker on the inside of it that I placed there seven years ago as a freshman.  After switching into tennis gear, I walked out to court #6, warmed up, and waited for that special alum opportunity to get a shot at somebody on the current squad. 


Denis answered the bell.  He lent me a weighted Babolat with a fresh grip, and after about three minutes of groundstrokes and thirty seconds of volleys, the classic baseline-game-to-eleven-for-butts-up was on.  First round to the alum.  Double or nothing?  Of course.  Second round to the sophomore.  One more for two out of three?  Absolutely.  Ten-ten, win by two?  Yes.  My general playing strategy, (1) hit high and heavy to the backhand, (2) run everything down, and (3) try to pop an inside out or inside in forehand winner was not enough this time; his backhand was too good.  On court #2, Pete Stovell '93 was playing with Stein.  I suspect Stein had his hands full, because each time that I've played with Pete at the Cal Club in San Francisco, it is a battle.  



On Friday afternoon, I jogged from Winthrop to the Palmer Dixon Strength and Condition Center (PD) for HMT's first Dead Period conditioning workout.  The previous evening, I met Kurtis West who is in charge of HMT's Strength and Conditioning (S&C) program.  I also caught up with Tim Mullen who is now the Assistant Director of Harvard Athletics S&C.  Tim was part of Harvard Athletics S&C before the transition to PD in 2007 when we lifted in the back corner of the Murr and often worked cardio on the Airdyne exercise bikes in the Bright Hockey Center.  All-Americans Tom Blake '98 and Jon Chu '05 joined us for a few of those infamous Airdyne bike workouts my freshman year.   


The Airdyne bikes are still around, but they are located upstairs in PD where the bleachers used to be for Harvard Tennis matches.  Instead of tennis courts in PD, there is a 40-yard track.  It is a rare thing to walk into PD without one of Harvard's forty-two varsity teams running sprints on it. On each side of the track are enough lifting racks to accommodate the entire football team.  Craig Fitzgerald, former Director of Harvard Athletics S&C and our strength and conditioning coach from 2005-2008, put our team through untold amounts of pain on PD's track and racks in search of the "White Buffalo."  Coach Fitz is currently the Director of S&C for Penn State Football.   


Kurtis called it up and it was go time.  We lined up in the back of PD and started to go through a dynamic warm-up.  Connor let me take the edge of the line.  Kurtis called out the different exercises one by one and we moved together in unison across the track.  Once the warm-up was complete, there was a quick break for water.  Then, the real workout started.  Kurtis split us into two groups.  For the next thirty minutes, we were engaged in explosive sprint exercises broken into hard, short bursts across the track.  Kurtis had us competing against each other in most exercises.  If you lost, you did pushups.  I was competing in many races against Shaun.  I did a lot of pushups. 


I relished training next to senior and co-captain Andy Nguyen '13, who is the younger brother of Dan Nguyen '08 ("Noon").  Dan trained hard, in the Murr and in PD, and it was no surprise that his brother, Andy, demonstrated the same work ethic.  I appreciate that Dave, Andrew and Curtis permitted me to work out with the team in PD.  It was an energizing experience to train again with them.  After the workout was complete, Kurtis huddled it up and broke it down, "1-2-3 CRIM-ZONE!"


After the breakdown, we hustled over to the Murr.  My legs, particularly my calves, were hurting, but in a good way.  Dan Waldman '77 and I were able to hit before the Friends of Harvard Tennis (FoHT) board meeting.  I looked upstairs and saw Cameron Parker '10 with one of his children.  I shouted upstairs, "Is she number one or number two?"  Cam shouted back, "Number one!"  


After the board meeting, Dan and I played round robin doubles with Henry Steer '15 and Shaun.  It was competitive, and in the final round the Alums split 2-2 with Henry and Shaun (the Sophomores).  After doubles, I hit with FoHT Co-Chair Alex Seaver '82 and his son, Brendan Seaver '14.  We wrapped up the workout after about 6:30 PM, finishing it with a series of two-on-one rallies.  Afterward, Alex set me up with a ticket for the Game.




Late Saturday morning, I walked over to the Beren Center with Shantanu Dhaka '07 ("Dhak") and his girlfriend Pia Desai '07 to attend the FoHT Tailgate/Brunch.  Dhak was a junior when I joined the team as a freshman in 2005.  While on the team together, we shared a partiality for long, grinding hitting drills from our training days in Florida.  I am personally a huge fan of the FoHT Tailgate/Brunch event because it provides a central place for generations of Harvard players (HMT & HWT), and their family and friends, to meet before the Game.  Thank you Debbie and Alex for making the event possible – I am not aware of another Harvard Friend's group that does something comparable. 


Before even making it to the 2nd floor, I spotted Davis Mangham '12 ("Mang-Dawg") who was co-captain the year before and was a freshman my senior year.  Along with Alistair Felton '12 ("Felt-Dawg"), and Mac McAnulty '12 ("Mac-Dawg"), these guys were the last class that I played with on HMT.  Congratulations to all three of them for pulling through to earn the banner season they had last year.  It wasn't long before I ran into more HMT alums: Michael Libert '09 and his brother Adam, Penn '12 who is now at MIT, Will Guzick '11 ("Guz"), and Jordan Bohnen '05. 


On the HWT side, there were familiar faces as well.  Sam Gridley '12 made the trip out from Seattle and I caught up with Louise Laciny '12, Beier Ko '09, and senior co-captain Hideko Tachibana '13.  I met Hanna Morrill '14 and the current HWT assistant, Pavle Jefferson Columbia '03.  Before kickoff, I caught up with Dave and Bonnie.  I appreciated the opportunity to finally get some one-on-one time with them.  Out of pure happenstance, I ran into Jeff Dawson - Yale '09, and his brother Kyle who is currently on a junior on the Yale Tennis Team.  We were both making our way through the flood of tailgaters to Harvard Stadium to witness Harvard dominate Yale, 34-24. 


Later in the evening, Davis and I met up at the Kong before taking a cab to Atwood's Tavern for Andrew's B-Day Bash that was celebrated jointly with Karl Gregor - Air Force Academy '97, and former HMT Volunteer Assistant.  The event was stacked with alums from the nineties.  Before Davis and I could even get out of the cab, Richard Lee '94, a former "Netter" that I played with several times at alum events in the past, greeted us outside of Atwood's.  Tom Blake '98, Kunj Majmudar '99, Mitty Arnold '97, and Todd Meringhoff '96 with his wife Angela attended.  Andrew's younger brother Avery, Dartmouth '98 was in town from Toronto.  Fellow '09er Mike Libert was back later in the evening, as well as Jeremy Taylor – Birmingham-Southern '96. 


It was not possible to catch-up with all of the alums and friends that were there because there were too many.  After blues singer songwriter Tim Gearan setup, it was time to "cut the rug" and the dance floor quickly filled up.  It was a special evening for everyone there, many of them a part of the Boston tennis community, to celebrate two guys that have played a big part in our lives.




On Sunday night, an early team dinner was organized in Winthrop.  A table was available in the back corner of the dining hall where the ceiling is relatively low – at least for junior co-captain, Casey McMaster '14.  He ducked just to walk into the area.  Although I did not stay at the table long, I appreciated the opportunity to visit with the team.  I'm looking forward to the next Harvard-Yale/Grudge Cup matchup April 21, 2013.  Until then, good luck to HMT & HWT to make the most out of Dead Period and for a successful start to the 2012-2013.  



Coaches visit the Celtics


            The Harvard coaching staff went to watch the Celtics play the Brooklyn Nets in the Garden a few weeks back (that was the night of the melee and ejections of several key players including Rondo).  See picture below.  We sat on the floor and got a glimpse at these amazing athletes from only a few feet away.   Fish hadn't been to the "new" Garden and was wondering when Bob Cousy or Bill Russell was going to come running out the locker room.  Eric, a huge NBA fan, was on cloud nine.  And I was in total awe of the action from our vantage point.  I think these are the only professional seats actually on the floor of competition – imagine sitting in the line-judge chairs for a match at the Open!  We would like to thank the generosity of Jonathan Lavine – HBS grad and former Columbia Lions varsity golfer – among other thing) for the tickets and for such an amazing experience! 




                                                             Season's Greetings,

                                                            Eric Butorac (Player in Chief)

Andrew Rueb '95 (Team Scribe)

                                                            Dave Fish '72 (Editor-in-Chief)





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