“I was out of words,” laughs Daniel Henschel when asked about the moment the University of Alberta Golden Bears won the 2016 men’s Canadian University Tennis Championships. Three years later, the 25-year-old team co-captain would love to repeat that victorious moment.
The athletic Henschel started playing tennis at the age of eight. He considers his serve his best shot, so it’s no surprise his favourite players are Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro. As co-captain of the team, Henschel takes his leadership role seriously.
“I try to keep my teammates motivated at all times. I’m there to talk about anything, I’m there for them as a family member pretty much,” he says, adding that playing on a university team is like playing with your brothers.
Russ Sluchinski, head coach of the Golden Bears, notes that Henschel holds his teammates accountable. “He works hard on all aspects of his game and he challenges his teammates to follow his lead,” Sluchinski says.
As important as tennis is to the Golden Bears, Henschel emphasizes the balance between tennis, academics, and having a social life. Henschel encourages his teammates to attend other varsity games and meet other people in order to reduce stress and pressure on the student-athletes. He’s also eager to facilitate socialization when necessary. “I’m always willing to go out with them and introduce them to others, especially for the guys from out of town. We have a lot of team bonding events, going for dinner after practice or playing other sports together.” He believes these social activities contributed to the evolution from fifteen individuals at the start of the season to today’s connected group of teammates with a common goal.
2016, the last time the University of Alberta won the National Championships, was Henschel’s first year on the team. He recalled not knowing what to expect going into the tournament but enjoyed the new experiences it brought, such as all six singles matches being played simultaneously, having large crowds in the stands, and practising amongst the top players in the world who were in Toronto to contest the Rogers Cup. “It was completely different and kind of amazing, a feeling you can’t really describe,” he says.
The final was held on Sunday and with the score at 3-3, Henschel remembers his captain losing the first set in the decisive match. The Golden Bears rallied behind their captain and their cheers got louder and louder. Of the moment the team won, Henschel says, “I was out of words. If you ask me how it felt, I can’t describe it. It was amazing.”
Henschel and his teammates believe they’re getting better and better. “Another national title would be another loss of words,” he laughs, “and that’s what we’re aiming for”.
The University of Alberta Golden Bears begin their campaign towards another national title at Stade IGA in Montreal alongside the men’s Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. Semi-final matches will be played on August 10, 2019, with the gold and bronze medal matches the following day. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for ticket information. Don’t miss the kind of tennis that will leave you speechless!