David Ryan Plays in Final Home Match on Saturday

April 20, 2007

Stanford seniors David Ryan and Eric McKean will compete in the final home matches of their Cardinal careers on Saturday, April 21 when the Cardinal face California at 1:00 pm at the Taube Tennis Center. Ryan, from Brentwood School in Los Angeles, reflects on his four-year career on The Farm in a Q&A.

Q & A With David Ryan

What has been the most memorable moment for you as a member of the Stanford men's tennis team?
The most memorable moment for me was clinching the match this year against Santa Clara. It was my first dual match win, and the fact that it came as the clincher to give us a 4-3 win was unbelievable. Playing in the third set with Coach Whit on my court, and the whole team together standing together supporting me through the end of the match was really special and something I will never forget.

Why did you choose to come to Stanford?
Stanford was a dream school for me. I did not expect to get in, and when I did I did not think twice about coming. As everyone says, Stanford is so unique in having the best level of academics combined with top level athletics. But there was even more for me, as my girlfriend was coming here, and my best friend Eric McKean was coming here as well. I am lucky enough to still spend time with both of them every day, and I could not have imagined spending the last four years anywhere else.

The expectations of the Stanford tennis program are very high year in and year out. How are you able to handle the rigors of a demanding class schedule and the pursuit of being a national champion?
One of the best lessons I have learned from being on the tennis team is the importance of focusing on what I am doing while I am doing it, and not letting stress about other things in my past or future get in the way of my performance in the present. It is easy to allow the stress of an upcoming test or an unfinished assignment wear on my mind during practice, and then to allow the exhaustion or time commitments from tennis limit my focus on my schoolwork. As I have gone through my years at Stanford, I have gotten better at committing myself to the idea that when I am at tennis practice, I focus 100% on giving everything I have to that for that period of time, and then when I work for classes, I focus 100% on giving everything to that for that period of time. I think that the hours in the day are there to do both successfully, and the challenge gets a lot more difficult if I let one activity affect the other, harming my performance in both. This lesson and mental training are two unexpected benefits I will take away from my experiences on the Stanford tennis team.

What do you like most about being on the Stanford tennis team?
The bonds I've made with guys on the team. I sometimes stop and think when we are playing in front of a packed crowd against Duke in the NCAAs or against USC or UCLA about how awesome it is that all the guys down the line were the same guys running sprints side by side at 7 A.M. back in September, hitting buckets of serves indoors during rainstorms in December, and playing cards together in airports all year. All those things when we're alone as a team make the times when we're in the spotlight that much more special. The little things throughout the year that we go through as a group, perhaps more off the court than on, are what I will remember and look back fondly on the most.

How have you changed as a player and a person in your four years on The Farm?
As a player, I think I have improved a lot in all aspects of the game. Having not played much in the juniors, I was pretty raw coming onto the team. I think that a combination of getting to practice every day with extremely talented and motivated teammates, and getting helpful coaching from Whit and Dave Hodge have really helped my game progress. As a person, perhaps the biggest thing I think I have learned is that all things in the world are done by the hard work, dedication, and entrepreneurship of regular people. Things do not just exist, or happen, as a result of some big anonymous machine out in some big anonymous and untouchable 'real world.' Things happen because people do them, and other things do not happen because other people do not do them. Our coaches have stressed that this is true in tennis as it is in the rest of life. The best players are not just automatically or inevitably the best as a result of some unidentifiable mystery. To the contrary, they work hardest, longest, and with the most passion. I think I have learned that that lesson will be true in many other areas of life as well.

Which team did you look forward to playing the most and why?
UCLA. The history in the Stanford vs. UCLA match is unparalleled, and being a part of that tradition is special.

What advice would you give the future Stanford tennis players?
Understand that you are a part of something much bigger than yourself. The Stanford tennis program is without doubt a unique and special one, and being a part of it is a unique privilege. Remember to appreciate that, and remember that the moment you become a part of the team, you become the representative of the program to the world, including all those who have come before you, and those who have worked for and supported the program for years and even decades. Enjoy that honor, and do not forget it throughout your time on the team.

What type of influence has John Whitlinger and Dave Hodge had on your career?
Whit and Dave have been great mentors throughout my time at Stanford. The relationships I have with them on and off the court are great, and they've helped me way beyond tennis. The values that they stress, and the standards and actions that they expect from the members of the team have provided great lessons and examples for me. They have made being a part of this team about more than just playing tennis. They have made it about being a dedicated teammate, and a responsible and independent person. I think that the Stanford tennis program will only be better off for this.

What do you want your teammates to remember you for and what do you want your Stanford legacy to be?
I want my teammates to remember me as someone who put the team before myself. I want my Stanford legacy to be that I did what ever I could do to make the team better, whether that involved working on my game, helping others with their games, or helping others off the court.

What are your career goals following your graduation from Stanford?
After graduation I will remain in the Stanford area to work as the Executive Director of Face Aids, a national organization that provides jobs for AIDS victims in Zambia and Rwanda and mobilizes college students to fight AIDS in Africa. I hope to work in international relations throughout my career.

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