Bob Cawood ’13 relishes the repetitive sound of a tennis ball being launched into play and then returned. He’s missing hearing it in a competitive setting at Hope College.
Cawood is optimistic that will change this weekend when his Hope College men’s and women’s tennis teams are scheduled to begin the 2021 season with a pair of home matches. It has been nearly a year since either the Flying Dutchmen or the Flying Dutch had matches because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cawood’s fourth season as head coach at his alma mater has been a unique one with a delayed start and modified training routines. He talks about this season’s preparations on the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast.
A long wait ends for both Hope teams on Friday, February 12 with a 5 p.m. match against Cornerstone University at DeWitt Tennis Center. The Flying Dutchmen and Flying Dutch follow on Saturday, February 13 with a 3 p.m. match against Davenport University.
“We have continually stressed, even at practice in the fall, what a privilege it is to play this sport,” Cawood said. “Thankfully, our sport is probably one of the more socially distant sports, and so it honestly has not changed a whole lot in terms of the way I coach. The only difference is the way that we have cleaned up and the way that we have to pick up the balls. I try to limit the number of balls that we use in a practice as well.
“Where there used to be high fives, now it’s racquet taps. We have a physical touch that still is socially distant.”
Giving Back to the Game
Despite the challenges, Cawood has been determined to continue to give back to the game, one he holds dear, through his work as head coach at Hope as well as a tennis pro for the DeWitt Tennis Center.
During his collegiate playing days at Hope, Cawood’s 104 combined wins in singles and doubles play rank him third among Flying Dutchmen players. He also was the 2012 recipient of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Allen B. Stowe Sportsmanship Award.
Since he had one season of NCAA eligibility left after graduating from Hope, Cawood also played NCAA Division I tennis at the University of Detroit Mercy while taking graduate school classes. At UDM, he was named team captain and team MVP for the Titans.
Now as a coach, Cawood aims to be the kind of role model he’s had during his playing and coaching career.
“This is my way of giving back, I always say, because I definitely appreciated my coach here at Hope, Steve Gorno. He’s a role model still for me. He’s been a mentor. He’s an amazing human being. He taught me a lot of things that I have not been able to read in a textbook. For me to be able to have a philosophy from him, a philosophy from playing D-I for a year, having (assistant coach) Nate Price, having all these different people in my life to be able to put me in this moment, it’s my opportunity to give back to these young men.
“I cannot stress how much I appreciated my coach here who shaped me to be the person I am, helped with that. That’s exactly what my hope is to be able to do for the players on the men’s and women’s teams.”