In his tenure, Oklahoma State men’s tennis coach Jay Udwadia has arguably led the Cowboys to recognizable success.
The recruiting in the recent seasons shows there is plenty to look forward to at the Greenwood Tennis Center for the foreseeable future.
There are also other questions to be considered.
Who is Udwadia other than a coach? What does he remember from his earlier days on the court? What are his best memories? What can be compared from growing up in New York to moving to the South?
Q: What was your first impression of tennis and how you got involved?
A: I come from a tennis family. My mom played, and then she got my other brothers involved. My first memory was taking group lessons at about 5 or 6 years of age.
Q: What was another activity when you weren’t on the tennis courts?
A: I did a little bit of everything, but I didn’t concentrate on anything as much as I did on tennis, and I remember having to kind of make a decision as to which way I wanted to go. When I was about 8 or 9, I decided to just go full throttle on tennis.
Q: What changes of scenery and culture did you see from your road from New York to Stillwater?
A: I started traveling at a young age playing in national tournaments. I saw the rest of the country, and I think Stillwater is a lot like Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s exactly what a small-town college (scene) would be with my past experiences at the University of Arkansas. I have traveled a lot as a junior. I’d say 20-25 years ago, Fayetteville was very similar to what Stillwater is now. It’s grown a lot and it’s a very similar town than what it was when I played there.
Q: What's your favorite memory of playing?
A: It’s gotta be college tennis. I think it’s really special when you play for a team and give it all to the guys next to you. That’s probably my proudest moment playing for a school and just trying to win by my teammates.
Q: What's your favorite memory of coaching?
A: In terms of Oklahoma State, I think what got the program really going after my first year, it was really special to be the number No. 6 seed tennis team at home. I had been selling all the recruits like telling them we’re going to get this new facility, and we’re going to be a good team, just trust the process and all that. The second year, we really took off, to beat Tennessee at home with the opening of the Greenwood Tennis Center, it was a really special moment for OSU tennis.
Q: What do you like the most about gameday?
A: You kind of get a little bit addicted to the competition and you just can’t wait to start playing the matches, so just the excitement to start competing on those days and then seeing how everything plays out and enjoying the moment, it’s definitely the most special thing for me. I’m outside a lot, I’m with younger people a lot even though I’m getting older. It’s just the feeling of being alive and competing and living through the guys (of) what I had gone through years before.
Q: What’s your main motivation?
A: I think you just keep on getting better. The ultimate goal is, someday you want to win a national championship but I think for these players, when they sign to be a Cowboy, you want to give them the best student-athlete experience. You want to make sure they can win on a championship level team so it motivates me trying to get them to the best level I can. I love to see how they grow up and mature as kids as they go on during the most pivotal years in their life to see them grow and anything I can do to help them achieve their goals on and off the tennis court is really rewarding. It motivates me to see them come away with a degree and make the right choice to come to Oklahoma State.
Q: How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will influence you and your boys in the near future?
A: I think everyone’s wondering the same thing. I don’t think anyone has all of the answers. I think we’re going to come out of this in a lot of ways. Sometimes, life puts these dampers on you, and at the end of the day, you just try to be as positive as you can and hopefully some positives will come out of this, and we’ll appreciate what we have and we’ll make do with whatever the NCAA tells us. We’re still going to train, we’re going to hopefully have a small season. We’re playing tennis outside in the sun and these kids are getting a scholarship to get their education. I think we’re all very fortunate to still do what we’re doing. We just got to put aside the “Debbie Downer” moments and try to keep on (fighting) through because there’s a lot to play for and I think eventually this thing will end and the things we have in place will be better for it.
Q: What’s your philosophy or something you tell the boys before and after the matches?
A: It’s interesting because we have all this stuff, but I think we also have to get the team to realize we’re a blue-collar tennis team. Even though we have all the resources and facilities, I want them to be grounded and appreciate what we have and the hard work is what counts the most, not how much clothing you get, what type of nice facility you get, all that stuff is great, but it really comes down to what you’re gonna get back and you can look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and know you put in the work and we’re doing it together.
Q: What is your advice to a young boy or girl looking to be the next tennis star?
A: You can really drive yourself nuts and keep comparing yourself to your peers and all that stuff, but I think you just have to worry about your improvement, and as long as you’re doing the right things, that’s all you can control. If you have that desire and the motivation and determination, it’s eventually going to come. Just stay patient, and good things will happen to people who work hard and are on the right track mentality wise.