Anna Shkudun’s knee problems led her to take on coaching

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Anna Shkudun walked off the court with tears running down her face. It was her final home match for Syracuse, and she had won.Behind all of the excitement and emotions after she clinched the win for the Orange in a 7-5, 6-2 win against Notre Dame on Sunday, one thought filled Shkudun’s mind: her future.Coming in to SU an experienced international prospect, Shkuden looked to a potential future as a professional player. In 2016, she became the first SU player invited to the NCAA tournament since 1996.But Shkudun dealt with pain in her left knee, leading to a surgery in November 2016. Shkudun, who still wears a knee brace during matches, struggled in 2017, posting a 2-13 singles record. Her dream of becoming a professional tennis player was crushed. To stay in the game, she decided to take up coaching.“Unfortunately, I do not have any components to help me play professionally because of my knee,” Shkudun said, “I would have to start everything from scratch, and I can’t do that anymore. I’m not the first singles player I was.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textShkudun knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life around tennis, so she looked for other options. Shkudun was upfront with herself, she said, and made a personal decision to skip the professional tennis scene.“Coaching was my second plan,” Shkudun said, “I knew I wouldn’t play tennis my whole life anyways, so it’s just going to happen a little earlier than I expected.”Shkudun started to observe what it really takes to be a “good coach,” looking at what was working for her teammates and mixed the qualities of her coaches at SU to create her own coaching style. SU head coach Younes Limam brings more of a strategic approach to matches, while volunteer assistant coach Len Lopoo focuses on positive reinforcement to gear players in the right direction.Shkudun narrowed it down to four qualities: intensity, support, energy and positivity.“She’s gonna tell you not what you want to hear,” junior Libi Mesh said, “but what you need to hear.”The same authenticity that led Shkudun to bypass a professional career has rubbed off on her teammates. While Shkudun said she has to change her perspective from a collegiate tennis player to a coach, Mesh believes Shkudun acts as a player-coach for the team already.When Mesh first arrived to SU, the same year as Shkudun, Mesh struggled to cope with the new environment.“She made me realize to enjoy the little things in life,” Mesh said, “She cares so much and speaks from the heart. I can’t wait for her to continue it on.”After SU won against then-No. 3 Georgia Tech on April 1, Shkudun interviewed to coach at a tennis club outside of New York City. The meeting in Drumlins Country Club lasted more than two hours and she was ultimately offered a position to coach players of all ages. For the first part of the interview, Limam spoke on her behalf.“I just told them about how much she has a passion for tennis,” Limam said, “She doesn’t do it because she has to do it, so it was pretty obvious to support her on this decision.”As Shkudun’s tenure as a member of the Orange dwindles, the graduate student wants to leave her options open but knows tennis will be a part of her life for a long time. Though coaching was not her initial plan, Shkudun believes her decision is the right one.“I get to help people reach their potential, and I get to stay in tennis,” Shkudun said. “It’s everything I want.” Comments Published on April 16, 2018 at 11:49 pm Contact KJ: [email protected] | @KJEdelmanlast_img read more