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Bounce Back Season

by Kennedy Henson

Kami Vallero is the new women’s tennis coach for the 2018 season. She graduated from Blackburn College and was hired as a traveling admissions counselor. During her time as a Blackburn student, she played tennis under the current assistant coach Daniel Hussey. “When I came to Blackburn, I told myself I wasn’t going to play any sports and focus on my studies and really excel at the college level,” said Vallero. She had also played tennis at her high school, but had determined for herself that she was only an average student, and wanted to change that in college.

Freshman Erica Bechtold crafts her skills in a practice following the team’s opening match conference victory

Even though she told herself she would stay away from athletics, she felt she wasn’t truly getting the most out of her Blackburn experience. “I would be walking back from class and could see them practicing. I slowly realized that I really wanted to be out there with them instead of sitting in my dorm,” said Vallero. Coincidentally, Hussey reached out to her as the season came closer and asked if she would like to play, and Vallero quickly decided that this was what she wanted. She played for the remainder of her eligible years. “Playing under coach Hussey really helped to form me into the person I am today. I found a family in my teammates, and I want that for all my players now,” said Vallero.

Gariel Pierce has her eyes on the ball

Vallero commented on her decision to coach by saying, “I still love the game and play with my husband recreationally, but still felt like something was missing: competition.” While coaching may not be the same as competing, it still helps to fill the void Vallero felt within herself. With coaching now being her full-time job, she no longer has to travel as an admissions counselor. “I’m still trying to get used to being on campus every day, but I am really enjoying it. I felt as if I missed out on the culture on campus always being gone, and I can now make so many more connections with students being here all the time,” said Vallero.

Fatima Noor with a serve

Vallero sated her excitement for the upcoming season by stating “I’ve made some changes to the way the team practices and can really see the payoff as we get closer to the season opener. Blackburn tennis hasn’t had a winning season in several years, and I want that reputation to change.” She has the team meditate for 2-3 minutes before every single practice in an attempt to help the girls relax and focus for the next few hours. “College is a stressful time for anyone, but athletics adds even more, especially here at Blackburn, since they also have to work. It’s a struggle for them to juggle all of their responsibilities, so I really try to get them to relax and focus through meditation, and it has benefited the girls tremendously,” said Vallero.

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