UMD tennis builds chemistry with 6am practices

BY AUSTIN RUSH | The Statesman It’s 6 a.m. at the Arrowhead Tennis and Athletic Center. The UMD women’s Tennis team is hitting silent volleys back and forth, beginning yet another early morning practice after having just rolled out of bed.

The only sounds in the facility are rackets on balls and head coach Jessica Worden yelling instructions to her tired squad.

“We all sleep in our practice clothes to cut five minutes out of a very structured morning,” sophomore Karly Weber said, chuckling.

It was junior co-captain Drew DeCorsey’s idea to bring the team together every morning so early. The team practices from 6-7:30 a.m. Monday-Thursday and now in the seventh week of practice the team is beginning to adapt to such an early start to their day.

“In the beginning I was kind of resenting it, but now it’s kind of nice because practice gets done then you go right to class and then you have the rest of your day to do whatever you want,” sophomore Shelby Benkofske said.

Strong chemistry is a key trait to a winning team. The UMD tennis team believes that being able to practice together, no matter the time of day,  will help them come closer as a team and be more successful on the court. According to head coach Jessica Worden, before she arrived the team had mixed practices throughout the day and were never able to practice as a full team due to overlapping class schedules.

The early morning practices bring a little bit of a lifestyle change for the UMD tennis team. Many of the girls have changed their bedtimes and morning routines.

Junior co-captain Drew DeCorsey, one of two juniors on a UMD tennis roster that doesn't have any seniors, hatched the idea for 6am practices to help build team chemistry. for BRAD EISCHENS/STATESMAN

“I never thought my bedtime would be nine o'clock,” DeCorsey said.

Without their usual tunes over the loud-speaker, things were fairly quiet until the team woke up about 20 minutes into practice.

“Usually in the mornings we listen to either Fergie or Beyoncé on the speaker to get us going for a little bit; pretty much every other day there’s hard core rap or Beyoncé blaring to get us amped,” DeCorsey said.

Coach Worden had plenty of energy all morning long; there wasn’t any shortage of vocals from the first-year coach. It was a bit different for the rest of the team. It wasn’t until about 6:30 a.m. that the team found their smiles and intensity.

There was an almost unanimous vote on who the best person to be around at 6 a.m. is, and sophomore Rachel Menke took home that award.

“I just like to have a good time and try to make it positive and fun because no one wants to be up at five in the morning. I just want to make it as fun as possible,” Menke said.

Worden praises the girls’ work ethic in the mornings. According to the first-year head coach, everyone shows up by 10 minutes to six and there has yet to be one person late to practice.

“They do a really good job,” Worden said.

In order to really ensure her team has a successful practice she employs a little bit of tough love, but her players understand her reasoning for using some ferocity in the mornings.

Coach is a sweetheart on and off the court. During our practices, though, we need someone to be a leader and make sure that we stay focused—that means she needs to get a little intense sometimes,” DeCorsey said.

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