by Marc Friedland
If things keep heading in the same direction for the Southwest 8.0 team, it could be building something of a dynasty. It’s impressive enough that the team has reached four Nationals over recent years, and won the title in one of them. But when you consider the obstacles the team faces, you’ve got to tip your hat.
Take nothing away from the team members’ effort and talent, but you’ve got to give a lot of credit to the team’s captain, Aaron Gomez. Through recruitment and strong retention efforts, Aaron has led the team to the San Antonio Nationals, and to two Las Vegas Nationals, one of which they won in 2006. This year’s trip to the 2008 USTA League presented by Chrysler National Championship—Western Mixed Doubles marks the team’s fourth National showing. Aaron has managed to bring back six of the same players to all four of those Nationals. (Of course, that will have to change next year with the new rules).
Here’s the catch. Due to Southwest division rules, Aaron can only have 12 players on the team. As a result he’s had to do a stellar job of keeping repeat players, and finding new ones.
Arizona, where the team is based, may be the hardest place to keep good players and recruit new ones. For obvious reasons, tennis is very popular in the Valley of the Sun. So even though you may have a bigger pool of players to draw from, the area also has plenty of other clubs and programs.
“Other leagues are competing for players,” Aaron says. “To recruit good players, we have to keep winning. It helps that we can sell them on our success at Nationals.”
As Aaron explains, even though they are winning a lot, it’s not easy, especially with so few players.
“We have to have the same players play on dual levels,” he says, “like 8.0 and 9.0.. That means they often have to play for both levels on the same night.”
That proves that credit is due to the players. But then Aaron’s captaining/recruiting ability must have something to do with the success: He’s also taken two Men’s 4.5 teams to the Nationals in 2004 and 2007.