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!
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.
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.
"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."
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.
With the NCAA Men's & Women's Tennis Championships just around the corner, we checked in with former Stanford University head men's tennis coach Dick Gould, who now works as the Director of Tennis for the Cardinal. Gould was the head coach for 38 years and won 776 matches and 17 NCAA team championships. In this Q&A Gould talks about the tournament, his memories of playing in Athens, his longtime friend and coaching rival Dan Magill, and more.
Thanks to Stanford sports information director Brian Risso for conducting the interview.
On his current role...
"When I retired from coaching after 38 years, I decided I didn't want to stop working. So I created a job description that I thought would really help the coaches who were succeeding me. As Director of Tennis, I would have the responsibility of overseeing the facility, in addition to efforts with stewardship and fundraising, and whatever else was needed to make the program run well. I think it's very fair that I'm not involved in recruiting; a parent doesn't want to talk to someone who isn't going to be there full-time as a coach for their son or daughter. So I have no recruiting responsibilities, but if a coach brings by a player to say hello or something, I'm more than happy to greet them. But when I was coaching, there were a lot of outside factors that really impacted what I was doing on the court or could do with the team. A lot of this is my own doing. I really enjoyed making the schematics for the stadium and developing the stadium additions. I really enjoyed the fundraising and stewardship aspect, and working toward some kind of a goal or endpoint. But it did take a lot of time. So I figured it would be nice if I could continue to do this, and at the same time relieve our coaches of the responsibility. That gives me time to be creative in what I do and still represent Stanford well. My current role allows me more time for public appearances and speaking engagements, either nationally or around Northern California. That also includes developing our online court reservation system and refining our video streaming. So my current role has allowed me the flexibility to do those things."
On going to Athens this season...
"I'll be going back to Athens, probably getting there around the start of the women's and men's quarterfinals. My schedule doesn't allow me to take more than a few days away, but I will also certainly be present for the ITA Hall of Fame induction ceremony, with Dan Magill and two of our players, Patrick DuPre and David Wheaton being inducted. I want to see our teams compete, so hopefully they are both able to make it there. I just want to be there and soak it all in. Pick up different ideas here or there. What are they doing over there that would help us if we were to host again under my administration? Of course, the University of Georgia does such a great job and there is an incredible amount of tradition with the NCAA Championships there in Athens."
On memorable moments from NCAA's at Athens...
"One moment that sticks out in my mind was a loss in the finals. In 1984, we were playing a very, very good UCLA team, with a terrific doubles team of Mark Basham and Michael Kures at No. 1. In those days, the match was a best of nine and doubles was played second. Everything was done, the No. 1 match was on court and I think John Letts and Jim Grabb were playing for us. Kures from UCLA is standing in the ad court with the biggest forehand you have ever seen. It was tied up in the third set for the national championship. Letts was serving and his serve could go out a little bit, so I wanted to give him a safe serve. It was no-ad scoring and break point for everyone- if they broke us, they would be serving for the match or if we held, we would have gotten by a game that was a struggle for us to win. So there were a couple reasons I called a first serve to the center tee, which was Michael's forehand. However, Michael hit that ball so hard it came back before John could take a step into the court. I did that because the net was lower, it was a pretty safe serve with little angle for a return and I thought there might be an element of surprise because nobody would ever serve it there. But he hit that ball so far with his big forehand and that was it. Later on, we're sitting around, talking with UCLA after their postgame celebration. I said, 'Michael, did you know that ball was going there?' He looked at me and said, 'Coach, I've played against you for several years and I know what you're going to do. I knew you were going to have that ball go to my forehand. So it turned out to be one of the dumbest calls I made. Probably cost us a great chance at a championship. You remember some of those things more than any wins. Another moment I think was the relief I felt when we won the tournament during the year (1978) that John McEnroe, Bill Maze and Matt Mitchell were our top three players. That was a very different kind of a feeling. It was more a feeling of relief, that we actually got through the tournament and won it. Even more than the joy of the moment."
About Athens, relationships with fans/coaches, treatment he receives as a rival coach...
"You have to always enjoy going to Athens. It's always a thrill to walk around there and see what they may have added, what's new, etc. It really gave their program credibility. They started getting good once they began hosting the championships and doing a fine job with it. Dan Magill did an extremely good job of staging the tournament and coaching. That was one thing- I really wanted to host the tournament but I didn't feel like I could do that and coach at the same time. So immediately when I resigned, one of the stipulations was that we would be able to bid on the tournament. Plus, we really wanted to do it with the men and women together. You go to Athens every year or every other year, and form friendships with fans, coaching and staff. I just have always loved the atmosphere back there. I never bought into this thing of coaches have to hate their rivals, that we have to hate Cal or UCLA. You respect them but you don't hate an opponent. If it weren't for the opponent, we'd have nobody to play against. Tennis coaches are really just fun-loving guys in general. I really respected the guys I coached against. We would trade ideas even back then. I was a young guy starting out, so I'd try to steal what they were doing."
On Dan Magill, on and off the court...
"Dan is one of the most incredible individuals I've ever met. First of all, he has an unbelievable memory for sports trivia. He was once even the head SID at Georgia. Dan really got their athletic program on the map. He's just a great story-teller. I could remember being in the car with him, several times, begging a ride somewhere and just listening to Dan and some of those guys tell stories about some of the battles they had on the court as rival coaches. It was just incredible for me to sit and listen to him. When he gets a hold of a mic, the room gets ready to fall off their chairs in laughter because he keeps it light and makes it fun." "I would take it a step further and say that I don't know anyone who is a greater competitor than Dan. Sure, he's fun and nice and will give you that smile. But Dan really wants to win, and I really respected how he could do that and still be such a nice guy at the same time. We exchange mail a couple of times a year. He bleeds Georgia red. He's probably the most loyal person in the whole history of the university. When Dan retired, it was such a natural thing for him to become the curator of the Hall of Fame. That was a passion of his all the way along, as he was doing it while he was coaching. It was pretty much his idea; he founded it. Dan is still playing competitively at 90 years old, or at least I believe he was until recently. He is such a competitor. He'll say, 'Oh, last week I played in the 90 and over's and it was 104 degrees and humid, but I managed to pull it out. Of course, there was only one other guy alive in the tournament.' But he's just that kind of guy. Manny (Diaz) was lucky to have played for Dan. I think Manny picked up a ton of things from Dan. Everyone is their own person and of course, Manny does things in a class way, but a different way as well. College tennis will really miss Dan Magill. Not just as a coach, but his presence. One of those guys that makes college tennis such a great sport- that's Dan Magill."