TENNIS : Syracuse’s strong attention to fitness pays dividends in matches

first_img Comments Published on January 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm Contact Jacob: [email protected] | @Jacob_Klinger_ Luke Jensen places a premium on fitness.Though the Syracuse head coach ranks this year’s team as one of the most talented in school history, Jensen maintains a baseline of fitness aimed at strengthening his team mentally and physically. The team lifts, runs and practices in a way that many programs don’t. As a result, the Orange plays differently, too.In practice, the team is constantly in motion. Jensen’s players sprint to pick up balls and between drills, as well as when gathering to receive instruction. The routine saves time, but also intensifies practices.‘The approach is we want to make practice tougher than any match you’ll ever play,’ Jensen said.As dynamic as the Orange’s practices are, the team lifts for an hour every day before practice. Veronica Dyer, Syracuse’s director of strength and conditioning for Olympic sports, has put an emphasis on strengthening the players’ physical core through plyometrics.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJensen said the 360-degree mobility the sport requires makes the team’s explosive workouts a necessity. Though the core exercises keep his team moving, the daily lift sessions have had a physical makeover effect as well.‘We have freshmen that have never really lifted before that have really redefined their bodies,’ Jensen said.During his time as Syracuse’s head coach, Jensen has become more receptive to weightlifting. When Jensen first arrived with the Orange, he placed a greater singular emphasis on endurance. This year the lifting has been accentuated, and it is starting to pay off.‘They’re hitting so much bigger because of our emphasis on weights,’ Jensen said.To avoid a complete shock to the system, committed recruits receive a copy of the team’s fitness plan before joining their teammates in the fall. For sophomore Maddie Kobelt, the advanced training made a significant difference. An extra summer of training eased the transition into Jensen’s practices, Kobelt said.All players are required to pass a fitness test early in the season. The tests were conducted earlier in this season than last year, keeping the players on their toes, Kobelt said.Players must complete either a five-mile run in 40 minutes or complete eight miles in 24 minutes on a stationary bike.Once the tests are completed, players still regularly test themselves to maintain that endurance.‘We’ll do it on our own, our cardio every day as well, getting 40 minutes in of running or on the bike,’ Kobelt said.Though the Orange has yet to register a win this season, the off-the-court work has paid dividends in the past. Jensen especially notices the difference in his players at the Big East tournament.Jensen said the extra attention to fitness manifests itself in the Orange being able to keep up its energy level deep into matches.‘When you’re fit and you’re playing these matches and you look across the net at your opponent sitting down and gasping for air, that gives you confidence,’ Jensen said. ‘…When you’re able to hit the ball harder than you’ve ever hit before, that gives you confidence,’ Jensen said.Still, Jensen maintains that confidence is only a small part of a successful player.Though confidence gets players through difficult matches, in the final games of a deciding set, with both players worn down from the grueling four-hour affair that is the average college tennis match, advantages in tennis skill become minimized and the better athlete wins.‘You can have all the confidence in the world, but if you don’t have good physical fitness you’re going to get injured. You won’t be able to go the distance,’ Jensen said.The constant grinding on unrelenting concrete often takes a toll on players’ bodies.Yet for all the work Jensen and his staff do sculpting and protecting his players’ bodies, it is the binding of his athletes’ minds and bodies that Jensen expects to make his players better.‘When you’re physically fit and strong,’ Jensen said, ‘you’re going to be mentally fit and strong and handle anything that comes at you.’[email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more