This season, varsity tennis secured its twelfth consecutive Inter-Ac title. The team closed out its league season with a high-stakes match against Germantown Academy, a team with whom Haverford tennis has consistently battled.
Challenging moments like these manifest in all areas of team tennis. Fifth Former Jay Crowther, the team’s top player, says that these pressure moments are what the team prepares for most.
“We train hard and focus on physical conditioning a lot, and Coach [Antonio] Fink ensures that the fundamental facets of our games are ready for the big pressure moments, but […] where we stand alone and truly excel above all others is in the unparalleled team spirit we have,” Crowther said.
To get through these tough matches, Crowther relies on his teammates and the positive dynamic that the team has developed this season.
“The adrenaline from my teammates losing their voices for me in hopes [that] I can clinch a [deciding match tie-break] is a truly unmatched feeling,” Crowther said.
Sixth Former co-captain Damian Ferraro agrees that the camaraderie among the whole team is a major factor in their success.
“The chemistry for the team [this year] is unparalleled to any other team we’ve had,” Ferrao said. “We’ve had some very late matches, but nobody ever leaves […] when everyone’s surrounding you, it’s this amazing mentality and environment where it feels like everyone’s supporting you, […] that’s what makes this team so successful. Everyone’s willing to reach out [to] each other.”
Ferraro’s comment on the mentality that team support brings speaks to a major part of success in tennis: grit, mental toughness, and positivity. As a sport that is both physically and mentally demanding, tennis requires training in both disciplines. Not only does a player’s body need to be prepared to endure matches that can last over two hours, but his mind needs to remain calm, focused, and positive.
While Crowther commented on Coach Fink’s ensuring that his players’ technique is sound and ready for pressure moments, Ferraro says that Coach Fink supports the team’s mental game as well.
“I was in a match and Mr. Fink said to me, ‘It looks like you’re playing really tight. Just let it rip. Trust your shot.’ Immediately after that, I didn’t think about my shot but I played it naturally. When you enjoy the sport for what it is instead of thinking about the result, that’s when you end up becoming the most successful,” Ferraro said.
In his fourteen years as Head Coach, Coach Fink has won twelve consecutive Inter-Ac titles, including this year’s. He believes in the power of physical fitness to bring a team to victory.
“Fitness is the key element in the preseason that prepares us for the season. Adverse weather conditions are turned into a positive by making use of the gym to work on muscle memory, conditioning, and strength. If you are physically fit, you are mentally fit,” Coach Fink said. “Competition is the reward for the athlete’s hard work in practice. We’ve won more close matches this season than ever before. Our stamina has been instrumental in edging other teams in very close matches.”
In addition to his adept coaching of his players’ physical and mental games, Coach Fink helps his players grow off of the courts.
“[Coach Fink] knows how to work us hard and get us in the right mindset for every game, but I think the more important thing he’s done is help us grow as people,” Crowther said. “He’s changed my life in the classroom and on the courts. He’s taught me priceless lessons on how to be a better person, how to be more honorable and gracious, and the importance of self-belief, all of which are values that I now live by and strive to instill in others.”
Coach Fink’s commitment to each of his team members not only helps them reach Inter-Ac championships but also reach their full potential as students and people overall. Crowther believes that the entire team can attest to Coach Fink’s wisdom and positivity.
While Coach Fink has certainly not run out of steam, and will continue to serve as a valued member of the faculty the 2022 season is his last. He leaves behind a legacy of hard work, dedication, and positivity that will be greatly missed by the team, as well as unmatched results.
The team sealed the season with a 13-1 record and won its 12th consecutive Inter-Ac title.
“It’s been tough for the team knowing this is his final year as our coach, so we’re hoping to give back to him a final gift for everything he’s done for us,” Crowther said.