This week The Mirror had the chance to speak via Zoom with the Fairfield University men’s and women’s tennis teams’ head coach, Jeff Bricker. The 2020-2021 season marks Bricker’s seventh season as a head coach for Fairfield. He was the 2019 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Women’s Tennis Coach of the Year and mentored several 2019 All-MAAC student athletes. Prior to coaching at Fairfield University, Bricker coached for three years at the University of New Haven and for a year at Albertus Magnus College. As a player at Sacred Heart University, he received the Coach’s Award in 2000.
Similar to coaches all around the world, Bricker is tasked with getting his team ready to compete in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. However, his team was not easily flustered. Bricker feels that the University as a whole “did a really good job of the onboarding process and getting us ready” to return to campus this fall.
For his teams, being back on campus after an abrupt end to their seasons in March is exciting in general. While the process started off slow, eventually the team was all back together and ready to get to work. One thing that Bricker had to manage with his teams was their excitement. He did not want to “just go gangbusters out of the gate.” Bricker and his coaching staff had been virtually preparing the teams by having Zoom calls throughout the summer in order to make sure that there were no surprises for the players. The goal was to have everyone on the same page when they returned this fall.
One challenge that Bricker faced this summer was that the three newcomers on his team are international students. Because of COVD-19, it was unclear if international students would be able to travel to the United States or not, this was the topic of an ongoing debate.
“The biggest challenge was just making sure they could get here,” Bricker stated.
Again, he compliments University staff for the help they provided in securing I-20 forms and visas, and being in contact with the Office of Student Engagement’s sector of International Student Life. He also believes that, in general, international students end up being more prepared coming to school because there is so much to do before the trip since it is not easy for them to return home. Some newcomers had to quarantine in the Conference Center while others had a more lenient quarantine in their own residences on campus. Some also had family members here that they were able to quarantine with throughout the summer. In the end, all of them made it here.
“Other than the normal freshmen stuff, they are adjusting great,” Bricker said.
Even though the newcomers are from some far away places, the team was still able to bond pretty easily.
Coach Bricker compliments his senior and junior leadership, as well as international upperclassmen on the teams, for their willingness to integrate these new athletes into the team seamlessly. He knows that these players know what it is like to be a first-year in a new place, so they do a really good job of welcoming everyone to the team and creating comradery. In addition, the teams had Zoom calls throughout the summer so that everyone could get to know each other and the newcomers could familiarize themselves with their teammates before arriving on campus. He was confident that pretty quickly, the newcomers would be set and ready to go.
Fairfield University athletics are currently on a two week hiatus, as Fairfield’s positive COVID-19 cases have been on the rise these past few weeks. But, once athletics are allowed to resume, Coach Bricker’s goal is simple: lead both teams to MAAC Championship titles.
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