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May 2012 Archives

Bulldogs get love from the NFL

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Quick little nugget this morning to go with your morning coffee: three former Georgia football players have been singled out by the NFL, including on the league's "Top 10 players under the age of 25." Check out who made the list and read more here!

 

May in Athens (and why we've been MIA)

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First of all, I wanted to take a second to apologize for the severe lack of blog posts to Between the Hedges over the last couple days/weeks. It's been a crazy time around here in the Athletic Department with all the sports either winding down or heating up, but I realize that despite that, this blog was created for the sole purpose of giving Bulldog fans and supporters a glimpse inside the goings-on at the UGAAA, so the lack of posting is not only inexcusable, but a giant missed opportunity.

It really seems like every time you turn around, one of the Georgia teams is doing something great this time of year. Track & Field just got back from the SEC Championships, where they posted the highest combined score in school history. Baseball earned a spot in the SEC Championships in Hoover, Ala., as the Bulldogs play their final home game tonight and their last SEC series this weekend at Alabama. Softball learned it will host an NCAA Regional this weekend. Men's golf is set to play its regional rounds this weekend, while Rocio Sanchez Lobato qualified for the NCAA Championships as an individual on the women's side. 

And then you have tennis. Ah, tennis in Athens in May.

The main reason I've been slacking at writing lately is the fact that we're hosting the 2012 NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships here on campus, starting this Thursday and running through Memorial Day. Without being a math major, you can figure out that that's nearly two weeks of tennis. But I am definitely not complaining, because hosting the tennis tournament is without a doubt one of the highlights of my career (short as it may be) working in sports.

We hosted the tournament last in 2010, my first year at UGA, when I was still a grad assistant and horribly afraid of making a mistake in any area of my job, even more so with 32 tennis teams here competing in their biggest event of the year. I came to find that going through the planning process this year, I blacked out most of what happened in 2010. At the point you're working two weeks of 12+ hour days, it's hard to retain any more information besides that you survived and two teams won.

I think the most special part of the tournament is the fact that UGA has hosted it so many times. This will be the 30th time overall (men's, women's, or both), and as my good friend Coach Dan Magill would say, Georgia is the "mecca of college tennis." Back in the "good old days," Coach Magill made sure UGA had the best tennis facilities in the country so that Georgia would get the chance to host the tournament. Well, it did, and the folks here did such a good job that it kept coming back. Most years, the tournament has been in Athens, and whether you're one of the many who feel like it should be permanently based here, like the College World Series are in Omaha and Oklahoma City, or someone who feels that that would give the Bulldogs an unfair advantage, you have to appreciate the fact that this town turns upside down every third week of May in a hosting year.

Going through this a second time now, I can appreciate the fact that the tournament gets brought back to Athens because of history and tradition and because of Coach Magill, but also because Georgia is good at it. I was talking to our AD for event management Matt Brachowski for a Q&A a couple weeks ago - Matt doubles as the tournament director - and he made me aware of something very interesting. He said that he feels pressure to do a good job so that the tournament is awarded to Athens as a host site again. Thinking of it like that makes it so much easier to get through these crazy times. We all work together to make sure that the fans, media, and especially the participants have a good experience, and that we get the opportunity to host again. The work we do is a reflection on UGA, Athens, and the athletic department, and I don't think that's lost on anyone from the Athletic Director to the ticket takers to the promotions staff to the grounds crew to the ushers. Around here we've all heard stories about folks marking tournament week off in their calendars, that this tournament is truly a part of Athens, and means so much to the people who've been coming for years. We are working for those people. We can't let them down.

So, as I am about to head over to the courts to enter lock-down mode for the rest of May, I encourage you to come out to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, even if it's just for one match or one hour. I promise you'll see right away how special the NCAA Tennis Championships are, and why coaches and players all around the country talk about how much fun they have when they qualify for the round of 16 and get to come play here. 

A full schedule is available right here. You won't be disappointed.

-Kate

Another Bulldog wins Stadion Classic

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Georgia golfers made it two in a row at the Stadion Classic, with former Bulldog Hudson Swafford winning the Nationwide event as a rookie on the tour yesterday, following up his old teammate Russell Henley's win last year. The event is held at the UGA Golf Course in Athens.

Swafford won the Stadion by one stroke, using a course-record 9-under 62 Sunday to finish at 17-under for the event with a 267, the lowest score since this tournament moved to the UGA Golf Course. He withstood runs by Vanderbilt alum Luke List and two-time U.S. Open champ Lee Janzen.

For more on Swafford's big win, check out this article posted to Georgiadogs.com, which includes an interview with the Georgia All-American.

Here are some more clips on the Bulldog victory.

*ESPN: Former Georgia Bulldog nets Nationwide Tour win with an amazing chip shot (with VIDEO)

*Huffington Post: Hudson Swafford wins Stadion Classic on college course

*AJC blog: UGA grad Swafford holes out on 18 to shoot 62 and win Stadion

*ABH: Former UGA golfer wins 2012 Stadion Classic (with VIDEO)

Q&A with Matt Brachowski, NCAA Tennis Tournament Director

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ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia's assistant athletic director for event management, Matt Brachowski, has been involved with the NCAA Tennis Championships since 1995, has served on the NCAA Tennis committee and as its chair, and is looking forward to hosting another great event in 2012. In this Q&A we check in with Brachowski to discuss what goes into hosting the tournament in Athens, as well as some of the challenges and his best memories.

 

Georgiadogs.com: What is your role at UGA, and how long have you been involved with tennis?

Matt Brachowski: At Georgia I am the assistant AD for event management, and the NCAA Tennis tournament director. The first tournament I worked was in spring 1995 when Coach [Dan] Magill was still working as the tournament director. After he retired from the Athletic Association, Coach [Manuel] Diaz and I sort of tag-teamed the position for a couple years, and 2000 was the first time I was the tournament director. I've been the director on the men's side in 2000, 2001, and 2003, and was the women's director in 2004 and 2005, and for both championships in 2007 and 2010. From Sept. 2004-Aug. 2008 I was a member of the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Tennis Committee and was chair of that committee during the 2008 NCAA Championships.

 

GD: What is it like getting ready to host the tournament?

MB: Well, we've got to corral a bunch of crazy staff to make sure they're doing what they need to do! My role is to oversee the entire operation of the championships and stay in touch with the different departments to see what they need. We try to plan and direct everything so that the event can run well and be bigger and better than the previous year. We work with the ticket office, promotions, sports information, facilities, and everyone - bringing all the different parts together and giving everyone the resources they need to do their jobs.

 

GD: How about once it starts?

MB: Once we're on site, there's still the overview of running the operations of the event. I'll work with the folks on the ground - ticket takers, ushers, media staff - and help visiting teams and participants with everything they need. I want to be a resource. We're also the liaison to the NCAA and the committee to make sure their policies they want enforced for the championship are being met. Even though we're the host of the championship, this is still the NCAA's event and we have to follow the policies and procedures they set.

 

GD: What are the biggest challenges you've faced since you started doing this?

MB: The biggest challenges are always the things you hadn't thought of or hadn't had to face before. You have to deal with things in an efficient manner, and come up with solutions that will be the best for all parties involved. With an outdoor championship like tennis, you obviously try to do the best you can with weather, and even if it's a practice day, you make sure the 32 teams who need to practice can get court times some way, somehow. You have to help the teams as much as possible and do all we can for them. The other challenges are just being available. With this kind of event, there are a lot of long hours for the people working and you've got to be sure you're ready for the next day. There are usually some early wakeup calls, and we've finished matches at 2 or 3 a.m. and then you've got to be back in the morning. I think everything can be a challenge - it's how you deal with it either beforehand or how it occurs that dictates if it's something easily overcome or if it gives you more trouble than it should.

 

GD: Do you feel comfortable now that you've done this so many times, or do you still get anxious?

MB: With my personality, I never feel comfortable. I always think of things that need to be done, or what we can do to have a positive impact on the championships and the participants. It's never a guarantee you're going to get to host again, and we need to do what we can do to have a positive impact so that we're in a position to be awarded the chance to host again in the future.

 

GD: A lot of people say the tournament belongs in Athens. Does that make you proud?

MB: It makes you feel good when people recognize the job you do and think you do it well. There's a segment of the college tennis population that always comes to Athens and think it should remain in the discussion for a rotation or on a permanent basis, but in the last 10 years it's been a rotational basis. A lot of current coaches and players have gotten used to that, but there's also another segment that enjoys the opportunity to go to 2 or 3 different places over a four-year career and not play here every year. They want to travel and see different venues. There are also a lot of schools out there trying to improve their facilities so that they can host. Much like the Super Bowl or the All-Star Game, teams build facilities and want the chance to showcase them. I think that's good for the growth of college tennis.

 

GD: What is your best memory from the NCAA Championships?

MB: One that sticks out to me is one of the first years I was heavily involved - which was 1999. It just so happened to be one of the years Georgia was able to win on the men's side when it was a men's-only championship at that time. I remember during the ceremony after the event, Manuel had an interview or something and so the trophy wound up in my lap. I was just sitting on the court bench afterwards and with the trophy in my hands, I just had this feeling that I had had a little bit to do with it. With hosting, you try to take as much off the coach's plate as you can, and I felt like we'd let Coach Diaz focus on coaching tennis - that's his role and should be his role. For whatever reason I just felt a little self-gratification that I'd had a little impact on winning that year.


The 2012 NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships will be held at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., May 17-28. 

Q&A: Javelin thrower Braydon Anderson

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By Eliot Beckham

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Between The Hedges on Wednesday caught up with Georgia javelin star Braydon Anderson. The 22-year-old true sophomore dishes on why he got a late start on college, why he loves Athens, and more.

BtH: Thanks for stopping by, Braydon. You're already 22 and only a sophomore, due to the fact that you spent two years after high school on a mission as part of the LDS Church. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Braydon Anderson: Traditionally in my church, you leave home when you're 19. You pay your own way to go somewhere you're assigned--I was assigned to Boise, Idaho--so I left for Boise and spent the majority of time in the area around there. Every day for two years, I wore a white shirt and tie, slacks, and just went out. It was a full time mission, so I left early in the morning and got back late at night, after spending all day looking for people to teach. I'd try to help anyone out with whatever was going on in their life, teach them about my faith, and try to serve however I could. But it was also a real experience in being able to discover myself. It was my first time away from home like that. It was a real structured lifestyle, which was definitely a blessing in my life.

BtH: What were some of the specific things that you think made it such a powerful experience?

BA: One of the big ways it was a unique experience was that I didn't work in the typical sense, wasn't making money, and that I didn't go to school. Everything that I paid went towards my housing, my food, my transportation, so I was really able to put all my personal cares and worries aside and completely focus on other people. That made a huge difference for me, because not having to worry about that stuff let me help people out.

BtH: Did that structure allow for you to get some throwing practice in at all?

BA: I actually didn't have much, if any, time to train, other than as much as I could get in doing pushups, pullups and situps. That's about the extent of what I could do. I did at one point--there was a high school we passed in Oregon and some kids were out there throwing the javelin, so I did get to toss it around a bit--but other than that I didn't have any formal training while I was on my mission. Just didn't have time for it, couldn't do it, so I just had faith that I was doing the right thing out there and I'd be blessed for it.

BtH: We're very glad you ended up here. What was your decision making process looking at schools after such a long time away from them?

BA: Well, before I left for my mission I had come here on a recruiting visit. A track camp here in high school was my first exposure to [Assistant Coach Don] Babbitt, and he liked that I was a quick learner and was teachable. I ended up coming here for that recruiting visit in 2008, and my mom and I loved the facilities, the coach, and the program. At the end of my visit I told Coach Babbitt that I was going on a mission for my church, and he said that after I finished it, if he was still coaching here, he'd have a spot for me on the team. So towards the end of my mission, I was making a decision on where to go to school--had a couple scholarship offers and was weighing academic opportunities, and emailed Coach Babbitt. It felt like forever for him to email me back [laughs], but he said that he'd love for me to be on the team.

BtH: Were you also considering Brigham Young?

BA: Yeah, I was accepted on academics and they also offered me a track scholarship. It made the decision really hard. For a long time I was convinced I was going to BYU, as it was one of my wants as a child and my sister was actually already there at school, so to be able to go out there and hang out with her was a cool prospect. But one of the big decisions I made on coming to the University of Georgia was the program, Coach Babbitt, and my family being here in Georgia.

BtH: They're in Marietta, right? How does Athens compare to your hometown?

BA: I love Athens. There's really just a big sense of comradery here, you know? Everybody loves everybody, and it's really awesome. It's also the South, and I had missed that southern comfort. It's a nice little bubble of Georgia pride.

BtH: How do you think being here at UGA has helped you as a javelin thrower?

BA: Back in high school, I threw well, but I didn't have any formal training so it was more abut me just slinging the javelin as far as I could. I was a pitcher too, so I have a natural throwing arm from baseball. Initially my javelin throw was very much like a baseball throw. Being able to come here under Coach Babbitt, who was a javelin thrower himself, was just what I needed. He's been a really good teacher, ironing out the fundamentals, laying a foundation for my technique. I still have pretty basic form in comparison to other throwers, but I make do with what I got.

BtH: You've still got two good years ahead of you. But what are some things you might be thinking about for after graduation?

BA: Well, my major right now is Psychology. A lot of that came from my mission, being concerned with other people and why people do the things they do. For a long time I'd wanted to be a counselor, to work in marriage and family counseling, but one of the things I've been thinking about now is maybe becoming a juvenile probation officer. It's a good way to be involved with kids and maybe make a difference where you can. And I think with specifically my attributes--my personality, my physical stature--I feel like I can be pretty influential. I've got a younger brother and sister, and it just seems like something I'd love to do.

For more on Braydon's story, check out this video produced by UGA NewSource.

Stadion Classic in full "swing"

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...no pun intended! Ha, ha, ha...

So, with the Nationwide Tour's Stadion Classic at UGA kicking off this week (an event that was won by Georgia's Russell Henley last season), Between The Hedges was on site to capture some of the action leading up to the tournament. 

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On Monday morning, a host of former Bulldogs were back in town and out at the course to participate in the Celebrity Pro-Am that afternoon. We caught up with participant Hines Ward before he teed off, and the former Bulldog and NFL star talked about how he loves coming back to Athens, his hopes to one day start a broadcasting and coaching career, and how he hoped to beat his old QB Mike Bobo on the course.

You can check out Hines' interview as well as some others right here, thanks to GTV.

Later in the day, the Georgia men's and women's golf teams held a clinic for children at the UGA Golf Course. Between The Hedges had the chance to talk to Georgia's Director of Golf Dave Cousart, who spoke highly of the event:

"It's a great event, one we normally have at the beginning of the tournament on Monday afternoon. We've got a great turnout too, looks like 150 kids or so, so that's our biggest ever--and when I say kids, we've got maybe 30 college students here, probably in addition to 150 little ones. We try to do it from three years old all the way up to college age. It's part of the Nationwide Tour, as you can see there's about 20 of those pros out here helping us. You've also got the Women's Golf team, and somewhere around here are the guys too. It's just a great, fun event."

We also spoke with Shane Todd of Chick-Fil-A Beechwood, the head sponsor of the event:

"This particular event is great because obviously, it gets kids involved. So Thursday through Sunday is the golf tournament for the golf fans, but here we get to focus on kids age three all the way up through high school. Chick-Fil-A is proud to be a part of that."


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Be sure to check out the Stadion Classic, as it's not every day a Nationwide event winds up in a small town like Athens! And you also might get to see a Georgia player or two out there! All the info you need is here

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