Virginia Tech Men's Head Coach Jim Thompson
by Harry Cicma, 17 March 2010
Special from NBC Sports
In college men's tennis, the Atlantic Coast Conference has always been packed with strong teams. This year, one of the hottest teams in the conference - as well as the nation - is Virginia Tech. Harry Cicma of NBC Sports recently got the chance to sit down with Hokie Head Coach Jim Thompson.
Questions and Answers
Harry Cicma (HC): Your Hokies are currently ranked #22 in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, and you have been ranked in the top 15 - which is quite possibly the best start in the school's history. What has led to this success?
Jim Thompson (JT): We have worked very hard for many years to achieve this type of success, but this season we got off to such a great start with the home victory over Kentucky. We played extremely well and I feel the reason for this was we really prepared for it. We had a good fall and we played good competition. Our guys worked hard over the break and came back in shape and ready to start the season.
HC: The ACC Conference is, without a doubt, one of the most heavily-contested conferences in the country. What has it been like coaching against some of the NCAA's top talent?
JT: The ACC is certainly a very talented conference, and I have been very fortunate to coach in such a prestigious league. It is certainly the challenge that all coaches seek, and competing against the best is the only way to really improve.
HC: Your team beat 23rd-ranked Rice 7-0 during a dual match this season. Does this result prove that you are a contender for the national team title?
JT: I think putting that much value on any one result is a mistake. What it does say is that we have a very talented team that is capable of big wins. Rice has a good program and will certainly win lots of matches this spring, so we are fortunate to have played so well at home against them.
HC: Virginia is still the major force in the conference. How can you prepare your team to potentially face the Cavs in the conference tournament?
JT: Virginia does have an excellent team, and they are certainly a challenge to beat in the ACC. But I think our match in Blacksburg was closer than it looked in the end, and I feel our guys believe we can really compete against them. Remember, we will be able to play with a "nothing-to-lose attitude," while UVA might feel a little more pressure next time not to lose.
HC: The Hokies are continually in the nationally rankings, what has lead to this consistent success?
JT: Our athletic department has given us the type of support it takes to have an overall successful program. We have also tried to create an atmosphere for tennis in Blacksburg. Everyone knows VT has had great success in football, and we want people to realize we have - and can continue to have - success in other sports as well. It also has really helped that we joined the ACC.
HC: What advice would you give a recruit who's looking to play at Virginia Tech? That is, do you have advice on the best ways to train? Or how to prepare for the transition from high school tennis to a conference like the ACC?
JT: I think the best advice I can offer is to play as much as possible. Develop all aspects of your game, and try not to focus so much attention on the rankings. In order to be successful here, you have to really love the game and the challenges that go with being a part of a highly competitive team.
HC: What are your goals for the Hokies in 2010?
JT: We have always set high goals here at Virginia Tech. We want to achieve the highest national ranking possible and return to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Once you reach that point, I feel anything is possible.
This all starts with finishing in the top of our league. All these are goals which are based on outcomes, and we know in order to achieve anything we must control those things which we can control first.
And we will have a good work ethic. We will compete hard every time out!