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Spotlight on National Champions UCLA

UCLA 2011 Team Photo

Q&A with UCLA: Find out how the national champs got ready for their big win.

If you followed the National Campus Championships, you heard about last year's bicoastal battle, with UCLA triumphing over the University of Florida 30-19. It was the first national title for the Bruins squad and their seventh appearance at nationals. The UCLA program was created in 2003 and has built upon its strengths each successive year until reaching the pinnacle of the Tennis On Campus world this April.

And the question you might want to ask is: How can we do it, too?

To hear UCLA team captain Mark Otten describe team preparations, it was a regular training regimen, combined with what sounds like a California-cool vibe, that helped build up the Bruins for success. And after eight years of growth, he feels as though the championship belongs as much to those who started the program in 2003 as those who played in 2011. And with one championship under their belt and a new school year underway, the team is gearing up for another run at the title. Want some training tips from the Bruins? Read on...

TOC: Did your team train formally over this past summer -- or any summer?
Mark Otten: "There's no formal summer training; that's up to the individual players."

TOC: Do any members of your team play in adult leagues during the summer, or work in tennis-related jobs?
Otten: "Not for the most part, though a few have worked tennis camps, including the UCLA Billy Martin Camp." (Note: UCLA men's head tennis coach Billy Martin runs the Bassett-Martin Tennis Camp, one of the country's most successful camps for children. Martin also directs the UCLA Summer Tennis Camps held on the UCLA campus.)

TOC: What is your team's training like during the year?
Otten: "We practice twice a week from October through nationals in April, with breaks for finals and the holidays. Occasionally, we have outside players join for hitting variety, but rarely the varsity team members. There's no formal cross-training. This past year, I tried to schedule as many weekends as I could with matches/practices with other TOC schools (e.g., UC Irvine), which seemed to help."

TOC: In terms of player recruitment, you're facing off with the varsity for players. Is it difficult to get good athletes on your squad?
Otten: "We do a lot of advertising to the freshmen every year, and I have lots of help- e.g., the UCLA Director of Tennis, Grant Chen, connects me with a lot of the better players."

TOC: Will winning the championship last year assist you in drawing more players this year?
Otten: " Yes, I think a few more. We ended up with a feature article in the Daily Bruin, which I know got the attention of a few more students than usual."

TOC: What were your expectations coming into the TOC championships as a whole? Did you believe your team had the potential to go all the way?
Otten: "I knew we had the potential, but I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to jinx anything. And, in terms of competition you never really know what you're going to get from the other schools."

TOC: What are your other players like? Mainly upperclassmen? A mix of different ages? What's the key to a successful future for the Bruins?
Otten: "Our star players were two freshman girls, and two sophomore guys. So our future looks bright."

Psst! Want some other ideas? Tennis On Campus supplies on-court resources like "Top 10 Games Every Coach Should Know." You can get this and more from our resources page.

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