Tennis reflects on COVID and predicts NCAA Championships | Sport

Chris Young said he often thinks about the 2020 NCAA Tennis Championships.

Young, Oklahoma State University’s director of tennis and women’s tennis coach, does not think about the matches played or the trophies raised. COVID-19 cases sweeping across the world canceled the championships OSU would have hosted, and almost two years later, Young is forced to think about what could have been.

“I think it would have been really good for college tennis,” Young said. “I think we’ve been hosts and done some of the things we had to do and just see how it works with a tournament, a lot of the external fan experiences and things we had to do.”

Young said he was reminded of canceled championships earlier this season; when the Cowgirls played against Ohio State. In 2020, OSU had a defeat, a 4-3 defeat against Ohio State.

“I think we had a lot of momentum that season,” Young said. “So you know, we were hoping to maybe make a little bit of a change on their home turf.”

The championships were to be more than tennis matches. It was supposed to be a two-week tennis party.

Musical acts and tents were planned to take over the Hall of Fame Avenue, which was to be cordoned off from traffic. Gavin Lang, OSU associate athletic director and communications director, attended the 2019 NCAA Tennis Championships in Orlando to get an idea of ​​the scope of the event.

“It would be so much more than just tennis,” Lang said.

In October 2020, the NCAA OSU awarded the 2024 NCAA Tennis Championships. The announcement came as a relief to many in Stillwater. OSU would get a chance to show off on college tennis’ biggest stage. Although the championships are scheduled to return to OSU, there are things that COVID-19 has changed forever.

People in the OSU athletics department spent hundreds of hours preparing for the 2020 championships. In the months leading up to the event, OSU representatives met weekly to accommodate any request outlined in the NCAA’s more than 100-page Operations Manual sent to each Web site hosting an NCAA Championship.

The meetings addressed all sorts of topics, such as the amount of signage needed to direct attendees, food menus and how Orange Power Studios would coordinate with the Tennis Channel to televise the matches.

“When you are in mid-March, many of these details are in place,” Young said. “So I think a lot of the hard work had been done, and now you’re starting all over again.”

The pandemic tightened college athletic department budgets everywhere. OSU was able to recover some of the money it spent on the canceled championships, but other costs the school will not get back.

Young was not entirely pessimistic.

When he talked about how the cancellation changed his program, he spent more time addressing the positive and finding silver linings than he did on recreating the negative ones.

“You know, (getting a bid to host the 2024 Championships) just gives us something out there as a goal to shoot for,” Young said.

When recruiting, Young uses the 2024 Championships as an incentive. He said every time his staff talks to a recruit, it gives them the potential to win a national championship in Stillwater.

“It’s something you want to be able to do just to make them aware,” Young said. ‘I think it means something to some kids. For others, it does not affect their decision at all. ”

Young said hosting an NCAA Championship does not mean much to some international recruits who have never heard of the association. Explaining that OSU is hosting a championship helps validate the first-class tennis facilities OSU has, especially if the recruit is unable to visit the Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center.

Oona Orphana, a rookie on OSU’s women’s tennis team, said she likes to travel to new venues for away games, but said there is an advantage to playing in Stillwater.

“I think it’s going to be really cool,” Orphana said. “Playing at home is always good and having the big tournament here, I think it will be an advantage for the team.”

Martina Zerulo, an OSU graduate transfer, moved from Arkansas and has never played in an NCAA championship. The thought of playing in one in Stillwater excites her.

“The crowd here is crazy and the energy you feel when you play here gives you something more,” Zerulo said.

Although it was canceled, the 2020 NCAA Tennis Championship created tennis fans in Stillwater. Young said he is often asked when the event will return to OSU.

“I think it created a lot of people who were interested in, ‘Hey, when are you going to get it back?'” Young said. “It brings a kind of conversation with people that we are getting it back and that people are starting to grow and learn about it so that they are ready when it comes back.”

The delay in Stillwater’s hosting of the tournament creates further anticipation among fans eager to watch championship tennis in Stillwater.

“Maybe some people had just figured it out, and the cancellation might bring some things forward so the cancellation could be positive or negative,” Young said. “You can look at it both ways.”

Young also hopes the championships will be improved due to the extra time OSU has to prepare for them. The weekly meetings and time invested in the 2020 championships were not wasted as COVID-19 threw a wrench into the plans.

“I think we’ve learned a lot of things from it that we can hopefully put into play this time,” Young said. “So you know, I hope we have a good team that we can put together in 2024 and also handle it.”

Lang gave a sense of optimism that the 2024 Championships would be better than what the 2020 Championships would have been. He said that apart from loose talks, the detailed planning has not started, but when the time comes, many of the same people who worked together two years ago will re-organize the championships.

“We want to have as good a show as we can,” Lang said. “You know, the best show we put on in 2020 may not be as good as the best show we could put on in 2024 when there are new technologies, new things available to us.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com

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