FLIP THE GRIP: Warm-up, cool down game improves Bulldogs’ play

By: jackiereedy

Feb 03 2010

Category: Sports

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Junior Drake Bernstein and the rest of the Georgia men’s tennis team open the dual-match season Saturday. (PHOTO/ JACKIE REEDY, jackiereedy@gmail.com)

FLIP THE GRIP: Warm-up, cool down game improves Bulldogs’ play

January 21, 2010 by LISA GLASER Filed under Featured, Sports, Tennis

At a given practice, the men’s tennis team may begin or end their workouts with a game called “Sticks.”

Let the trash talking commence.

“Nate feeds me the ball and I smash it,” senior Christian Vitulli said.

“I’m the best by far,” junior Drake Bernstein said.

“I’d say Nate [is the best], and Drake would obviously say himself, selfishly,” senior Alex Hill said.

Though the views on the game are varying, the rules are straightforward. Played in front of the service line, after one doubles pair serves the ball in, a member of the other team hits it to his partner, who then returns it back over the net using the “stick” side of his racket. “Sticks” is a practice tool for the team for several reasons.

“We’ll do it at the beginning or the end, to either loosen up or to cool down. We play it just to have some fun, especially after a long day of practice,” Bernstein said.

Vitulli points to how the game helps with hand-eye coordination, while Hill feels “Sticks” is useful in improving certain tennis skills.

“It helps our movement. But mostly, it’s just for a little relaxation and fun,” Hill said.

Outside of a desire to improve each player’s individual abilities, “Sticks” may represent how this team relies on one another to have fun and make it through both practice and the day. It is one of several examples showing the team’s camaraderie.

“I’ve always felt that bringing the team closer together is the key to success. We’ve always had a very close team and a lot of it has to do with the things we do together, stuff like playing that game,” Hill said.

Off the court, the team hangs out together, eats dinner together and occasionally pranks each other. The amount of time spent with one another may contribute to the team’s atmosphere.

“You probably couldn’t find a time in the day where there’s not at least two of us together. When we do stuff, we do it as a team. We try to push that with everybody,” Bernstein said. “When freshmen get here, they kind of see how it is and how you do anything for your teammates and they’re going to do whatever they can to help you out.”

With the team’s goals including winning a national championship, every step toward the NCAA tournament involves every player, in one way or another.

According to Bernstein, depending on a teammate to help a fellow teammate improve in practice, laugh with you in a game of “Sticks” or to win an important match are all intertwined.

“Really, when it comes down to it, that’s the difference between the best teams and the teams that are great,” Bernstein said.

“In the last few years, you could say, other than when we won it in ’07, the most talented team might not have won the tournament. It’s always the team with the best relationships that win it.”

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