Wong Face: Change Coaches and Change the Game

 

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By: Katie Jones

 

Imagine being on a sports team where you feel like you’re not the coach’s “favorite” and not making a contribution to the athletic program. The way I see it is that you have three options: number one: you can ignore the situation, number two: you can attempt to challenge the situation, or number three: you can change the situation. Kristi Wong, a sophomore tennis player at CNU found herself in this position as an athlete in high school and she decided on option three, to make a change, and her tennis game was bettered because of it.

Kristi began tennis in 2008 when her dad introduced her to the sport. She said they used to play together but now that her skills have improved they don’t play as much as she often beats him in matches. Kristi has played tennis for the two years that she’s been at Christopher Newport, and chose to be a Captain because she found herself identifying with the tennis program, especially with the style of the coach that was similar to hers in high school.

During her freshman year in high school, Kristi debated quitting tennis due to her having differences with the facility that she was training with and their tendencies to show favoritism amongst athletes. However when she switched to training with coach Vince Pulupa, he “made her fall back in love with tennis.” Kristi has been under the guidance of coach Vince for four years now and she said that she has “been able to make better friends, and the program that Vince created for her has allowed her to grow within the sport.”

Kristi finds herself dedicating anywhere from 17 to 25 hours per week to tennis which includes everything from practice, to team bonding, and yoga sessions. She also joined Greek Life so she finds herself having to prioritize her time and make a solid schedule in order to fit in everything into her day. Kristi said a reason that she appreciates the coaches here at CNU is because “even though you know that they put tennis high on their priority list and they obviously want you to succeed in the sport, they also emphasize the importance of academics.”

Kristi was recruited for CNU during high school by CNU Women’s Tennis Head Coach, Eric Christiansen, and said that “part of the reason I chose to be on the Captain’s team was because I felt like I could be coached in the same way as I was with Vince.” When asked about the impact of being at CNU has made on her relationship as an athlete with her coach, she said that it has not impacted the bond that she has with coach Vince, and “it’s not that different. I know he’ll be there when I come back home. Sometimes in order for me to have the amount of fun on the court that I have at home, I’ll give him a call.”

Kristi also spends her time during breaks from CNU to practice at her courts with him. “When we hit he will critique me and fix any technical problems in my game.” While Wong loves playing tennis for the Captains, she reflected on how playing at home in Maryland is a different experience. “When I’m at home, any moment I’m on the court is a great time. It’s fun and relaxing, being at home is a productive stress. When I reach a certain level, the coaches praise me.” Kristi has also become friends with other people that Vince coaches so she’s able to hit with them, and that has helped her to make more connections within the sport.

Kristi was the District Player of the Year in high school three times, and finished fourth at the state championship in her junior year. Coach Vince Pulupa changed the game for Kristi, he’s proof that a coach can make all of the difference in the success of an athlete, and for that CNU sports has benefitted and she still has two and a half more years of time to grow in her tennis career as a Captain, and we can’t wait to see where it takes her.

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