Tennis team remains optimistic, continues as normal despite pandemic

Practice continues with few changes for the K-State tennis team. (File photo by Brooke Barrett | Collegian Media Group)

Tennis assistant coach Tom Rees never doubted the Wildcats would compete this year despite a summer filled with uncertainty for many of Kansas State’s teams.

“In any of the discussions that I was involved in, there was never really too much talk of not having a season,” Rees said. “Tennis is a fairly distant sport, so we’ve been trying to go about our business as normal.”

Seven out of eight players return to the team this year. Despite the abrupt end to last season, the team had a successful 8-4 campaign.

The team implemented some changes to practices that began last week. Players don’t wear masks while practicing but any time they can’t maintain a six-foot distance, they wear masks and take other precautions.

“We are fortunate we’re a small roster sport. We’ve got a 70-foot distance between opponents and practice partners,” Rees said. “I can’t imagine the logistics that have gone into the larger roster sports — especially football — in this period.”

Tennis team members come from Japan, Italy, Venezuela, France, Romania and Hungary. Because of this, each member quarantined for two weeks after arriving at K-State. They also underwent COVID-19 testing and physical exams.

Rees said the coaching staff gave all players the option to stay in their home countries if they desired. However, the team chose to return to Manhattan with their sights set on improving, even if the season didn’t proceed as planned.

“I think the university does an amazing job. Even though we’re in unprecedented times, we don’t feel as athletes that we’re going to suffer,” senior Lilla Barzó said. “We still have food, we can practice, we can do whatever we want. We don’t really have restrictions. I think everybody is just glad that they can do what they want and they can still continue to do what they are here for.”

Three Big 12 Conference tournaments with limited travel are scheduled for the team. Even with less competition, the players remain positive about the season.

“I think the only thing for us to do is be positive and bring out the best of each other,” Barzó said. “I’m just glad that we’re able to do what we love.”

Coaches are focusing heavily on the positive mindset that the Wildcats need to have heading into the season and the school year.

“This semester is going to be a great challenge of your mindset and your attitude,” Rees said. “We’re hoping to see that side of the mindset, the attitude and gratitude to develop over the next two or three months.”

Rees said although COVID-19 has changed everyday lives, people should stay calm.

“This isn’t a time to freak out, this isn’t a time to make drastic life changes. Let’s just follow the rules that are in place, keep a positive attitude, follow business as normal as we can and keep that sense of normalcy in everything that we can,” Rees said.