While some sports, such as American football, are limited to a certain geographical area, others are played all around the world. Tennis is one such sport that is enjoyed nearly universally. It is no surprise then, that the ISU men’s tennis team features players from multiple countries and cultures.
Out of the eight members of the men’s tennis team, five are from foreign countries, Sebastian and William Edin from Sweden, Bjorn Scheepbouwer and Keegan Sullivan from South Africa and Haseeb Khan from Pakistan. Along with Francis Filipovich from California, Mitch Steadman from Oregon, and Pocatello native Josh Goodwin, ISU has players from all over the world playing tennis for the orange and black.
New head coach Mark Rodel is also from South Africa, thus adding to the diversity of the team. Rodel has worked as an assistant tennis coach at ISU for four years, but he is currently in his first year as the head coach for the men’s team.
Rodel inherited the majority of this year’s team, but his recruitment process going forward features a lot of networking.
“There are a lot of recruiting services now, but the best way for me is to have a connection. I think it’s the best way to sort through the players to figure out who would be a good fit here,” Rodel said.
The process of determining what players would be a good fit at ISU is fairly simple according to Rodel.
“We’re looking for three things: solid students, great character and good tennis players.”
While Rodel said it doesn’t really matter to him where exactly his players are from, he added that having a lot of diversity on the team is a bonus.
“It enhances the experience from the guys’ perspective and from the university’s perspective. They all bring a lot of talents, and they all learn from each other,” Rodel said.
The players agree with their coach that having such a wide variety of players has been a learning experience for them all.
“I think it’s really cool that we come from everywhere in the world, but we all love the same thing,” said junior Josh Goodwin, who Rodel described as the leader of the team. Goodwin also said he had the opportunity his freshman year to go to South Africa with fellow teammate Bjorn Scheepbouwer when Scheepbouwer returned home.
Scheepbouwer, who is in his third year at ISU, has had to adjust to many cultural differences since moving to the United States. Different food, friendlier people and an absence of traffic have been some of the biggest changes he has faced.
But despite the adjustments, Scheepbouwer said the opportunity to experience another country has been amazing.
“In South Africa, I wouldn’t be able to play tennis and study at the same time. My tennis career would have been over if I had gone to college back home,” Scheepbouwer said.
Khan, who just started at ISU in January, expressed similar sentiments.
Although Khan said that he had grown accustomed to American culture through the media, he was still met with some surprises when he came to the country for school.
“I didn’t know you had to go to class,” Khan said. “I just knew that you had to pass the exam, so that kind of caught me off guard for a little while.”
Khan said that although he has not been at ISU long, he has already made some great friends and memories. “We had a nice win against Eastern Washington this year. We all won all of our singles, and I think that was probably my favorite time here. That felt really good,” Khan said.
Rodel is optimistic that having such a diverse group of kids will be hugely beneficial for both the team, and the university in general.
“They help each other grow. They learn about their culture. They open others eyes to a whole different way of thinking,” Rodel said.