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USTA Georgia
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Southern section women well-prepared for rising temperatures

September 24, 2016 09:02 PM

By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF. – There was no doubt that mid-day weather conditions were going to be very warm for the USTA League Adult 18 & Over 4.0 National Championships, with temperatures forecasted for the upper 90s on Saturday and triple digits on Sunday at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort.

Despite the rising temperatures, the Southern Section women’s team from Fort Smith, Ark., arrived in the Southern California desert well-prepared to compete in hot weather and ready to make a strong run for the 4.0 title at the National Championships.

The team, which represents the Hardscrabble Country Club is coached by Bobby Banck, HCC tennis director, and Melissa Kelly, director of tennis for the Western Arkansas Tennis Association. Banck and Kelly, who accompanied the team to the Nationals, used rigorous training and conditioning programs this past season to prepare the team to play in hot weather.

The training paid off as the Fort Smith team battled through tough competition this past summer at the Arkansas State Tournament and the Southern Sections to earn a spot in the 4.0 Nationals.

“The state tournament was in Little Rock, Ark., in June. It’s not just the heat. It’s the humidity that makes it harder to play," said team captain Lucy Coleman. "It’s always over 100 (degrees) and you can easily add 10 more degrees to the temperature on the court.”

The team’s Sectional tournament was played in Mobile, Ala., in late July.

“It (Mobile) has more humidity and it’s even hotter, because it’s further south,” said Coleman. “We obviously started hydrating well before the event, making sure we’re all drinking plenty of water, replenishing electrolytes and fluids.” 

During their season, Kelly put the team through a high-level intensity training program for an hour to 90 minutes during the warmest part of the day. Team members did 30 minutes of conditioning, which included working with a medicine ball, playing soccer using a tennis ball on a full-court, jumping rope and running cones.

“For the next hour we did (tennis) points and games to achieve goals. We did things that made them push themselves outside their limits,” said Kelly. “They got used to the heat and they were very well prepared going into Sectionals and now Nationals. They are in it for the long matches. They know they can handle a long match when they walk on the court.”

The team has had the good fortune of having the coaching expertise and experience of Banck, who has coached some of the world’s best, including former Top 5 player Jimmy Arias, former Australian and French Open champion Mary Pierce and former world No. 1 Monica Seles.

“All the girls on this team and probably all the other teams can, for the most part, play in the heat for one match. The question was whether we could sustain that level for back-to-back matches with the same intensity and effort?” said Banck.  

“We live in an area that can get extremely hot and it’s very humid in Arkansas. If you can play in those conditions, 95 or 100 degrees and very-high humidity, you can play anywhere,” he added. “The practices leading into Sectionals and Nationals prepared us for that. I would work them very hard and our practices would be quite lengthy. The practices had to be harder than what you would experience (in a match).”

Coleman credited the members of her team for making the time commitment in preparing for their matches as they trained in hot weather conditions.

“Clearly it helped, because we’re here at Nationals,” said Coleman. “We had less cramping this year than we’ve had in the past. Everyone is pretty fit.”