The key to any sport is communication, but in tennis, talking about positioning and strategy among doubles players is particularly vital to winning. So how does a team with three Americans, three Russians and two Polish players succeed?
The men’s tennis team is currently in the fall portion of its bi-annual play. The fall session consists of various invitational tournaments that pit singles’ and doubles players against athletes from other schools in the region. The doubles lineup consists of four teams that vary based on each tournament, but it usually combines players of similar nationalities.
“It has nothing to do with them being from another country. It just worked out that way,” coach Steve Mauro said. “I coach tennis players. It has nothing to do with culture or where they’re from.”
“[The cultural aspect] is unique because there are a lot of foreigners on the team,” said junior Kurt Mauro, who is usually paired with an American player of Indian descent. “Everyone’s English is pretty good.”
The team has three Russian players whom Mauro places with each other, as well as with players of other nationalities. When the Russian players compete together, they speak Russian, but coach Mauro and his players say there are no problems with communication.
“I feel very comfortable to play doubles with all players,” senior Andrey Morozov said.
Morozov, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, traveled more than 4,300 miles to attend college in Philadelphia. While it may be unusual for one to travel such a great distance to attend school, Morozov’s explanation was simple.
“I found [Temple] on the Internet,” Morozov said. “I like the school. I like the city. I came to visit, and I liked it a lot.”
The team also hosts a pair of Polish brothers, junior Filip and sophomore Kacper Rams. The Rams brothers, who speak Polish on the court, were born in Katowice, Poland, approximately 4,342 miles from Philadelphia.
“It was a tennis decision,” Filip Rams said. “We came here to play tennis.”
The varying nationalities of players offer the team a unique cultural definition.
Internationally, tennis players from all over the world compete at every level, from collegiate play to professional matches. Four professional Grand Slam events are held in the United States, Great Britain, France and Australia. Aspiring players are now bred to interact internationally and compete against players of different cultures.
Cultural conflicts could represent a problem for some coaches, but Mauro said coaching at Temple is no different than coaching any other team.
“I treat everyone the same way,” coach Mauro said. “It’s a pleasure to work with international students.”
The players’ varying cultures don’t seem to have affected their chemistry. From what coach Mauro and his team said, they all seem to share a general feeling of acceptance, with everyone playing alongside whomever coach Mauro assigns them – and no matter what, they make it work.
“As far as the other teams in the [Atlantic Ten Conference], we have a lot more chemistry,” Kurt Mauro said.
“Our chemistry is good,” Filip Rams agreed. “We haven’t had any problems.”
But the international players have faced communication challenges off the court. At first, the language barrier affected some players in the classroom.
“Language was the biggest issue in the beginning for me,” Morozov said. “Tests are different. We only had final terms in Russia. Here, we have terms throughout the semester.”
“It’s kind of hard to adjust,” Filip Rams said. “Having classes in a different language is the hardest adjustment.”
But, just as they do on the court, the international students do what’s required to succeed. The team’s average grade point average is 3.4, the highest of any Temple sports team.
“We just try to work together as a team to win,” Kurt Mauro said.