5 players, 5 countries

Jessie Hellmann

The USI men’s tennis team knows a thing or two about different cultures. That’s because of the seven team members, five are from different countries.

The members represent countries from New Zealand, Cyprus, England and Columbia.

“I recruit internationally because it’s the norm for college tennis,” said men’s tennis coach Chris Crawford. “I had seven different countries on my team last season, and I have five kids (from different countries) this season.”

Crawford said it’s easy to recruit from different countries because the students want the opportunity to go to different schools.

“I believe it’s unique because of all the different ways these kids grew up,” he said. “It’s good to experience, and it’s good to learn different cultures and societies these kids grew up in.”

Joel Stern, a sophomore from Mjoelby, Sweden, said one of the biggest differences between playing tennis in his home country and playing tennis in America is the fact that schools don’t play sports in Sweden.

“Many people who play tennis on a high level go to the U.S. to play college tennis,” Stern said. “I just decided it was something I wanted to do. I chose USI because it seemed like a good school and a good tennis program, ranked in Division II.”

Last year, the men’s tennis team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

Aside from playing tennis in a different country, simply living in a new one is a challenge in some ways.

“Stuff like public transportation is a huge difference,” Stern said. “When I’m back home, I always walk everywhere or take the bus. But here you have to have a car to get anywhere.”

Other difference is the friendliness of people.

“At least compared to Sweden, people are easier to talk to,” he said. “Back home, you never talk to strangers. That’s a big difference I had to get used to when I got here.”

Joe Bray, a freshman from Christchurch, New Zealand, said tennis is different in his home country as well because schools don’t have sports teams.

“You just go there and drink and party,” Bray said.

He decided to come to USI because he received a good scholarship offer, he said.

One of the things he’s noticed is the difference of competition levels in the U.S.

“It’s more competitive here than back home, it seems,” Bray said. “The coaches are more in your face here. The coaches back home leave it up to you. There’s also a greater sense of teamwork here.”