Limam brings different philosophy to Syracuse tennis in 1st season as head coach

first_img Published on January 20, 2015 at 12:25 am Contact Sam: [email protected] | @SamBlum3 Facebook Twitter Google+ When Younes Limam became the Syracuse head coach in June of 2014, he did so knowing that things needed to change.No longer would it be a team where every player would work to play professionally. No longer would every athlete be American, with an American flag donning the back of every warm-up jacket. And no longer would every practice be centered on game planning for future opponents.Limam wasn’t only planning to change a losing program, he intended to redefine its culture.“It’s definitely a different philosophy,” Limam said, “and I guess whenever you make a move or you change from one job to another, you have to adjust.”In his first season as the head coach, Limam’s changes have already paid dividends. The No. 68 Orange has started out the season 2-0, which includes a road win over then-No. 39 South Florida on Jan. 10.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textUnder former head coach Luke Jensen — who resigned in the middle of last season after an inquiry into players’ concerns — players attended Syracuse expecting to play in offseason professional tournaments to prepare them to try and turn pro after college. All of Jensen’s scholarship players were also American citizens, and everyone who is part of the current Orange team was recruited under Jensen’s tenure.Though the team is a product of its former head coach, there is a consensus that Limam’s style of coaching is preferred.“I don’t think we’ve ever been this close,” senior Breanna Bachini said of the team’s chemistry. “And I think a lot of that has to do with the new energy and new coach … I like it a lot better.”Limam understands the desire to play professionally. Growing up in Morocco, that was always his dream. He was in the top three of the Moroccan junior circuit and on the national team for about 18 months before going to college in the United States.Playing professionally was all he wanted to do, he said, so he sympathizes with those on the current roster that want the same. Amanda Rodgers, a contributing writer for The Daily Orange, and Rhiann Newborn are two players that have vocalized those goals. In the fall, they went to two tournaments, while the rest of the team played in Intercollegiate Tennis Association competitions. Limam said it was beneficial to compete in college tournaments because the athletes typically get to play more matches.Making a team of star-studded professionals is no longer the goal for Syracuse tennis — he wants to see success at the collegiate level first — but Limam is still willing to help those that have those aspirations.“I can relate to them, and I understand what they’re going through,” he said. “I understand what they need to be doing in order to get to that level. It doesn’t matter what kind of tournaments you’re playing. If you’re winning at the collegiate level, then for sure, let’s try and take it to the next level.”With Limam, things are more laid back. The vision for the program is to garner success, without the previous restrictions of how that success is earned. Limam said he wants to find the best players for the program, regardless of where they’re from or what language they speak.Jimena Wu was a former No. 3 singles player for Syracuse who never received a scholarship and left the team after the 2013 season. She was from Peru.It was a mentality that senior Amanda Rodgers said she didn’t like and said was “biased.”Next year, Limam plans to have a scholarship player from the Czech Republic, something that wouldn’t have likely happened under Jensen.In practices, Limam doesn’t tell players what they need to do differently and he doesn’t tell players what they need to do to beat specific players, Bachini said. Instead, he asks his athletes what they think they need to work on. Rodgers said it feels as though every practice counts in a way it never used to in the past.The team does more sprints as opposed to long-distance runs. There’s more of a focus on footwork, and Rodgers said there’s a better balance of drills and match play in practice.“Everything we’re doing, it feels like I’m changing my game in a big way,” Rodgers said. “In the years past I didn’t really feel like that.”Limam said a realistic goal for this season would be to make the NCAA tournament, something that SU has never accomplished before.He’s not overly confident or cocky. His demeanor is conducive to the humble nature he exudes. But he does believe in his methods, and he does acknowledge an overhaul of direction within a program that was seeking it.Now Syracuse gets set to start a slate that includes seven teams in the Top 25, including three in the Top 10 and so far, everything has followed his blueprint.“I don’t think it was a dramatic change or a quick change, it’s a process,” Limam said. “We needed to adjust to each other, and it takes time to do that. At the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for the team.” Commentslast_img

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