Tennis players adjust to climate

Junior Nynke Van Der Goot is an international tennis player who’s originally from a town called Wageningen in The Netherlands. 

A tiny river town located between two hills, it’s about as different as possible from Detroit. Coming to a country that’s bigger than what she’s used to, Van Der Goot said there’s many differences between her hometown and America. 

“We have a sea climate, where the temperatures don’t go as low and as high,” she said. “It’s warmer in the winter and colder in the summer, but here in America, we have a warmer climate. I like the heat, I don’t like the cold.”

In The Netherlands, everything is reachable by bike. When Van Der Goot first came to America, she had a hard time getting to places because she was so used to riding her bike, or even walking. She didn’t have a driver’s license and she didn’t have a car.

“I went from being really independent to being very dependent and I really didn’t like that very much,” she said. “That was a really big change, but how I got used to it was by making some new friends, so that they could help me out and eventually, I got my driver’s license. I’ve kind of gotten used to the habits here now.”

Coming to a different country to play tennis overseas is also different for her. She expressed how there’s so many different cultures and a different way of doing things. Playing tennis with a team in America is a new experience for her.

“In the Netherlands, tennis more of an individual sport, you do it more for yourself and in America, you have to learn how to play together as a team, which is a big difference I have to get used to,” said Van Der Goot. 

The food here is also something she has to get used to. One famous meal to eat for lunch in The Netherlands is bread and cheese. “Here, you don’t really put cheese on bread and the bread is too sweet,” she said. “You just learn to adapt.” 

As of this year, she’s been living in America for four years. Transferring over from South Carolina State University after her freshman year to Detroit Mercy is one of her proud moments. This is also Van Der Goot’s first year of not going home for the summer to visit her family.

“Before, I used to go home during winter and summer break,” she said. “It’s not that I’m homesick all of the time; I love it here, but you have those points when everything is kind of against you and things are a little bit hard and you’re really missing that support from your parents. I’m a little homesick now because I know that I’m almost going home.”

This season, Van Der Goot is looking forward to trying to get into the Horizon League, and even, trying to go for the championship. Last year, the team had a lot of injuries, so it disconnected the team, but this year she hopes that the team comes together.

Recruiting players all over the world is pretty standard when it comes to tennis. 

“In the U.S., we have so many major sports, so tennis is much lower on the list of priorities of kids growing up in this country, but in other countries it’s much higher,” said Aaron Paajanen, head coach for men’s and women’s tennis at the university.

When recruiting players internationally, Paajanen takes into consideration the players preferences of playing styles (playing in or outdoors), their results, and also their English proficiency test, so that they know that if they come to Detroit Mercy and play on the team, they’re not only going to be successful on the court but in the classroom as well. A lot of the time, Paajanen has to rely heavily on recommendations from others.

“Sometimes it’s a little challenging because I’m not always going to get to meet the player or their families face-to-face, so a lot of the recruiting is done through messaging, skyping, and emails and then really having to do a lot of research to see if whether or not the level of play will be successful here,” Paajanen said.