NEW BRITAIN - Teams are often defined by their records. But for the New Britain boys tennis team, which is just 2-9, the last thing it’s worried about is winning or losing.
Instead, the Hurricanes have put their focus this season on improving at every practice and every match.
New Britain head coach Joe Vaverchak admitted that while his team has six seniors on the roster, 10 of his players have either just joined the team this year or just started playing tennis altogether.
Two of those fresh faces are senior Saul Rodriguez and sophomore Jose Garcia. Rodriguez joined the team this year because one of his friends, Ali Saleh, was already on the team and he convinced him to play.
“[I] was like ‘alright, why not? I’ve got nothing better to do in the spring,’” Rodriguez said. “This is my first year playing actually and it has just been a lot of fun so far.”
But for Garcia, he had a very different reason for joining.
“I joined because of a girl that I liked was doing it,” Garcia said. “I was honestly just trying to impress her.”
While both Rodriguez and Garcia decided to take up tennis for different reasons, both commended Vaverchak for his efforts as the coach.
“He’s such a great coach. He’s been teaching for so long and you can tell,” Garcia said. “He’s a little kooky, but he a really great guy and he’s really taught me a lot, especially my ground strokes and serves.”
But Vaverchak takes none of the credit, instead crediting the players’ work ethic. His focus has been on teaching the game to the players, rather than actually coaching them, a philosophy that his players have bought into.
“They put the effort in. That’s what counts the most,” Vaverchak said. “They’re there every day for practice. They’re trying to get better. They want to stay after it and hit balls. I’m really proud that they’re putting the effort in.”
Vaverchak highlighted Saleh specifically, a senior he sees as his No. 1 player. Saleh fell in his latest match to Berlin’s Jonathan Trevethan Tuesday afternoon. Vaverchak, however, said after the match Saleh continues to improve and has made “tremendous” strides since he started playing two years ago.
Like he is with Saleh, the head coach is proud of the team’s mentality as a whole.
“At this point in the game with these guys, it’s about teaching, not coaching,” Vaverchak said. “I’m teaching 10 new kids how to hold rackets and keep score. When we lose or win, the kids have been great. They’re loving it.”
In all, the coach is excited over the potential of the future of the program.
“We’re not winning a lot of matches, but we’re definitely improving,” Vaverchak said. “So I’m really proud and I’m excited to have some of these kids come back next year.”
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org