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Tennis isn't everything, it's the only thing.
Before coming to Harvard, tennis loomed as the numero uno priority for former women's tennis Coach Ed Krass. Eight-hour practices. Workouts at 6 a.m. before classes and at 4 p.m. after them.
The former Central Florida captain and top Clemson assistant coach came to Harvard hungry to implement his specialized training regiments.
Krass developed the "Biomechanically Efficient Service Technique" during his two-year tenure at Clemson. The serve--similar to that of former Wimbledon champion Roscoe Tanner--enables shoulder injury-prone players to create greater racquet speed by attacking the ball with a shorter motion and a lower ball toss than the traditional serve.
Krass' training routines worked. The results: four Ivy and two Eastern Regional championships in four seasons at Harvard.
But Krass announced his resignation last month from one of the most successful Harvard programs of the decade.
Number-two singles player Amy DeLone offered no explanations.
"After achieving as much as [Krass] did--winning the Ivy and East titles," deLone said, tinged with indignation, "I'm confused as to why he's leaving."
No matter why Krass is leaving, Co-Captain Nicole Rival said it will be increasingly difficult for a non-scholarship school like Harvard to attract and recruit talented high school players without a personality like Krass'.
"[Harvard] is at a definite disadvantage. We lose to scholarship schools," Rival said. "The next coach will have to find a special draw to make people want to play here. Ed will be sorely missed."
But, the road from men's coach at Central Florida and Clemson to women's coach at Harvard made for a hellish experience.
Even Krass realized the difficult transition from a men's program at Clemson to a woman's program at Harvard.
"It definitely was a transition from the Clemson men to the Harvard women," Krass said emphatically. "It look a lot to communicate with athletes with a stronger academic background and greater intelligence all the way around. It was a challenge to learn how to motivate them."
Krass was appointed coach at Central Florida in 1982, the year after he graduated from the school and captained the team. The former topseed led his team beyond its wildest dreams, qualifying as the Southeast Regional's representative in the fist ever NCAA Division II tournament in 1982. Two players, Troy McQuagge and Mike deFranco, qualified for All-America status under Krass' leadership.
Clemson selected Krass as head assistant coach in 1984, and the young coach helped set up training regiments for the Tigers, who included current U.S. Davis Cup team member Jay Berger,. Clemson finished ranked in the Top 10 and claimed the ACC championship both years that Krass worked with the program.
With training schemes and service game in mind, Krass wanted to integrate his full time workout routines into Harvard's program once he became the coach in 1986.
He was in for a cold shock.
"At first, [Krass] had come form a program where tennis was the only thing," Rival said. "And, you don't drive a women's team as hard as you do a men's team. Here, you don't have eight hours a day to condition and run miles. You have to use quality, not quantity."
But the early misunderstandings didn't dent Harvard's performance in Krass' first campaign. The Crimson picked off Princeton, 7-2, to go undefeated in the Ivies, and whipped William & Mary to win the Eastern Regional title. Harvard went to the NCAA's.
Some Crimson players feel that Krass' greatest improvements at the outset involved a more sympathetic approach towards individual team members.
"[Krass] has improved under presure," Amy deLone said. "Ed used to pace up and down and was upset during his losses. At first, he came in, gung-ho on tennis, but, as he became more accomplished, he cared about other things. He's very understanding. It's nice to know that if you have an hourly, you don't have to pretend and make up an excuse to miss practice."
Krass' maturation yielded fruitful results for the Crimson in the 1987-88 season. Harvard swept its Ivy matches and defeated nemesis William & Mary, 6-3, to win the Eastern title for the second consecutive year. Bumping off 14th-ranked SMU in the National Indoors highlighted Harvard's season.
By 1988, Krass' devotion took the shape of pouring his own personal earnings from spare projects into the women's tennis coffers to aid the program. He marketed service videos espousing the "Biomechnically Efficient Service Technique" to generate more revenue for Friends of Women's Tennis. the donations permitted Harvard to travel to more tournaments and "compete on a higher national caliber," according to Krass.
Krass' introduction of the novel service technique that year particularly helped top-seeded Cristina Dragomirescu and fifth-seeded Kathy Mulvehal the latter of whom went undefeated for the season using Krass' serve.
Harvard tied Yale for the Cirmson's seventh consecutive Ivy title. But William & Mary spoiled Harvard's bid at a trifecta of Eastern titles, 5-4, as Crimson stars Kim Cooper and Kristin Bland nursed injuries.
Rival said that Krass' enthusiasm lifted the program amidst the harsh adjustments in the early going.
"[Krass] loves the game of tennis, no doubt about it," Rival says. "He always would break things down to get us going. He always adjusted to the problems."
"He's improved under pressure," adds deLone. "Rather than concentrate on a loss, [Krass] would focus on the positive things."
Krass' perseverance paid off this season. The Crimson entered the spring season ranked 13th in the East, predicted to die painful deaths to Brown and Dartmouth.
It never happened.
Harvard fatally wounded the Bruins from the Ivy race and mowed down the Big Green to clinch the Crimson's eighth-straight Ivy crown. Harvard also punctured ninth ranked Pepperdine--a win billed as "the greatest in the history of the program," according to Krass and other afficionados of Harvard tennis.
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