ITA Convention: For Me It’s The Place To Be
By Dunja Antunovic, DePaul Graduate Assistant Coach
2010 ITA/USTWA Writing Contest Winner
Even when I was a student-athlete, the ITA Coaches’ Convention was an event that I really wanted to be at. I can still clearly recall sitting in my cozy apartment in Hungary on mid-December evenings waiting for the phone to ring. I knew my coach, Mark Ardizzone, was going to call me from Florida and give me an update on the Convention.
In retrospect, I realize I asked way too many questions. Who is there? What are they saying in the meetings? Who hangs out with whom? What sessions are you going to? Why aren’t you going to that other session? What are you voting on? In retrospect, I realize Mark was exceptionally patient with me as he satisfied my curiosity and carefully answered all my questions.
Even then, I wanted to be there.
Hence, when I moved into a graduate assistant coach position, it was only natural that I would attend the Convention. After all the anticipation, I wasn’t disappointed.
When you look at the schedule of clinics, you will quickly observe that the wide range of programming is designed to address the numerous areas of the coaching profession. And the best part is that you have the utmost liberty to pick and choose which ones you wish to attend.
But allow me to look beyond the obvious now and focus on the aspect that I was looking forward to the most about the Convention. That would be socializing.
The moment you enter the Naples Grande Beach Resort, you find your peers in a setting that is, for most of us, out of the ordinary. There are no matches to be played, no kids to scout, you are not competing against each other and you are not recruiting against each other. You are just peers. Chances are you are there for the same reasons: passion for your job and the desire to get better at it.
It is precisely in this setting that the greatest growth occurs. For me, a rookie coach with no prior experience and an open mind for learning, there were two particularly valuable outcomes of socializing.
For one, it’s a great networking tool. You have access to coaches, whom you perhaps never had the chance to talk to. Through these conversations, you might meet somebody who will reach out to you and mentor you, who will recommend you for a job later on or even somebody who will become your boss. You will become aware of just how wide the range of opportunities is within coaching.
The other gift you get, if you are truly attentive, is perspective. We all need some of that regardless of experience, regardless of age, regardless of what your team is ranked. I had the opportunity to step outside my DePaul bubble and learn about the experiences coaches from other divisions, conferences geographic areas, with different budgets and became aware of factors that I have not considered before.
You have the chance to network and you get perspective, which consequently leads to having a better understanding of the ways in which intercollegiate athletics and intercollegiate tennis operate. Ultimately, these are experiences that will make you a better coach.
Especially for those of us who are new to the profession, who need some guidance, the Convention is an educational opportunity we should not miss. I am fortunate to have a head coach who is also an outstanding mentor and for whom my registration for the Convention was not even a question. I understand that for many schools, there is a budget issue, but I encourage you to talk to your administrators. Your school will certainly not regret sending you.
And you…you want to be there.