Filling the gap

Student-athletes train on own time between fall and spring seasons to stay in shape

Story by Katie Bast, News Editor

Over spring break, the UW-Eau Claire women’s tennis team played several matches. But, they hadn’t swung in competition since their conference meet in October.

The women are one of three teams that have split seasons, meaning they play a few months in the fall and then pick up the season in the spring.

Senior captain Katie Gillman said training in the off-season is crucial to a successful spring season.

“Tennis is one of those sports where you can’t just pick up a racket the day before the season and be back to normal,” Gillman said.

She said while there’s no set workout required, maintaining a strong hit is just as important as staying in physical shape. She said the hiatus is what the players want it to be and it can make or break a player.

“You kind of worry a little bit in the back of your mind you wonder if people are going to hit in the off season,” Gillman said. “If we’ll still have this momentum in the spring.”

The gap can be useful for some. Gillman said the team this year is strong and trained well. She said freshman Olivia Gallagher trained so well she got a starting spot for the spring matches.

“If they’re willing to dedicate themselves and put in the extra time over the off season, you can really work and improve on different aspects of your game,” Gillman said. “(Taking time off) is kind of a double-edged sword.”

Gillman said it depends on the person to improve their own game, but said those in college sports already have high expectations of themselves and want to play during the off season to get better.

The tennis team has a heavier fall season, with tryouts at the end of August and matches regularly until the conference meet in October, Gillman said.

The spring season doesn’t start until late February and finishes at the end of April, she said. Despite being longer and more time consuming, Gillman said the fall season usually goes better.

That’s how it has been in the past, anyway. Gillman said she thinks this might be one of the strongest spring seasons in years.

“I feel like we might have one of the strongest spring seasons we’ve had in years,” Gillman said. “Fall technically has gone better in the past, but I think this year it’s going to be the spring.”

Senior golfer Ben Brooks said the two parts of the season are treated separately. Just like the summer hiatus, coaches aren’t allowed to train with their athletes during the winter gap. Because they don’t start team workouts until the coach is allowed to contact them, it adds another layer of pressure for athletes to train on their own.

Women’s golfer Samantha Dvorsak said its easier to stay in shape over the longer summer break because the nice weather makes it easier to practice outside.

“You’ve got to keep your swing,” she said. “You’ve got to still have that muscle memory so when springtime comes your swing didn’t completely fall apart.”

Dvorsak said her team will be headed to nationals this year. After winning the conference in the fall, they automatically receive a spot. She said this changed the way they trained over winter break a little bit.

Knowing what course they’ll be playing influenced this, she said. They’ll be playing a course that will require better physical shape so she has done more conditioning over break, she said.

Moving forward with the season, Dvorsak said play won’t be focused on beating teams to get to nationals, but maintaining and improving skills needed to succeed.

Brooks said the expectations are the same for each half of the season.

“It shouldn’t affect us all, to be honest,” Brooks said. “We don’t expect anything different from fall to spring. We expect our best play and to be as prepared as possible coming into spring as we can be.”