Lipscomb University’s women’s tennis team’s inherent global culture beckoned its focus to Nashville for spring break 2018, with an opportunity to serve refugee families that have resettled in Nashville.
On Saturday, March 10, the women’s tennis team joined 14 fellow Lipscomb student-athletes who were participating in a Nashville mission trip to put on a carnival and sports clinic for over 100 kids in an apartment complex located just 15 minutes away from Lipscomb’s campus.
Women’s tennis head coach, Jamie Aid, highlighted the reason for the team’s nearby service project. “The girls are really well traveled and have seen a lot of Europe and much of the world. But, they haven’t seen a lot here,” said Aid. “I think it’s really beneficial to them to be here and be involved in Nashville, and to see what goes on from a bigger perspective. So, a lot of our work is local.”
Junior Thabile Tshatedi, of Harare, Zimbabwe, discussed the team’s thoughts on Nashville and Lipscomb from their global perspective. “This community is unique in that everyone is so nice, helpful and polite,” she said. “If you have a question, someone is willing to give you the answer and if they do not have the answer, they will refer you to someone who does have the answer.”
Since 2014, the women’s tennis team has chosen to participate in a mission trip in middle of its season and just one week prior to the conference tournament. “We get asked why we do it in season all the time and whether it is the smartest thing to do. Sometimes the girls ask the same question,” said Aid. “It allows them to see the bigger picture off the court moving into the important part of the season. They’re actually fired up going into the conference tournament.”
“We are a very close group of girls already, but put any sort of task or opportunity in front of us and we always work together to make the best of the opportunity,” said Tshatedi of the timing of the mission trip.
How does an international group of young ladies connect with American youth? Tennis makes it easy. “That’s the great thing about tennis, it’s an easy way to build a connection. We just take the pop-up nets and play around with the kids,” explained Aid. “The girls are awesome when it comes to this type of interaction. It’s fun to watch.”
The mission trip was the first since spring of 2016 however, the team continued to serve the community by providing weekend clinics for Special Olympics throughout the fall of 2017. While the 2018 trip was the first for four of the girls, the others were no strangers to the type of project.
“The same week as our first mission trip, we scheduled a few matches in the Atlanta area. The women’s team had never been to a conference tournament, and we lost to Mercer, but beat Kennesaw that mission week,” remembered Aid.
“So, that week fell just before conference, on spring break, and it was huge. Our first conference berth into the tournament was done on a mission week. It’s just been something we’ve always done because the timing is great and the result is always awesome.”
“The spring break of my freshman year, we worked with World Relief to help immigrants settle into Nashville,” said Tshatedi. “We helped them understand the bus routes, we played with their children and took them around Nashville to show them the essential places they must know.”
The team as a whole loves to work with children. “I strongly believe all children must be loved unconditionally and enjoy their childhood youth,” Tshatedi explained. “We will teach the children how to play tennis. It opened many doors for me, so maybe it will also open doors for these children after we give them a few lessons,” she said.
Building on its first conference tournament appearance, women’s tennis has continued to rise within the conference, region and nation. “We have our first nationally ranked player at 58 and have put together a schedule that is at a different level for us than traditionally. It’s been a big schedule to bite off,” said Aid.
Sending players to national level tournaments over the past two years, combined with junior Viktorita Dzyuba’s national ranking as a sophomore are program firsts and indicators of the team’s upward trajectory. But the players focus transcends the court, existent in the classroom with four members maintaining 4.0 GPAs.
“They’re on it academically. They’re on it athletically,” said Aid. “But at the same time, keeping their feet on the ground is good. Our girls don’t come from backgrounds of material and things. They come from backgrounds where they haven’t had a lot.”
Characteristic of college sports is the plethora of gear and equipment provided in excess to athletes. “When you’re here as an athlete, you’re given so much that it’s good to do something like this where they have to get a little uncomfortable,” Aid said. “But once they start, they grow into it. So it’s good to get them out of their comfort zone and put them into situations like this.”
The women’s team has two recent wins under their belts against Murray State and Arkansas State at the start of March. The team returns after a tough triple-header against South Alabama, University of Tennessee, and Kennesaw State and will host Florida Gulf Coast University on March 29 at the Huston-Marsh-Griffith Tennis Center to see if they can follow in the men’s basketball team’s footsteps with a win over the Eagles.
This story was originally posted by Kasie Corley on http://www.lipscomb.edu