Tennis resembles U.N.

Program has distinct international presence

When asked how well the players blend in, SDSU Tennis Coach Don Hanson made sure he was heard as junior Dominic Rossetto busily worked on his racquet in a nearby room.

“They are stealing all the girls from the American guys, but other than that, they are just fine!”

Hanson was kidding, of course, and Rossetto just smiled as he continued his task.

Rossetto, from Tasmania, Australia, is one of seven international players in the SDSU tennis program that overall features eight men and eight women. In fact, during the last two seasons, the respective programs have featured a distinct international flavor.

Prior to the 2009-2010 school year, the program consisted strictly of local talent, but due to Internet recruiting, personal contact, and a desire to play at a high level, an international presence is becoming more common.

“It’s not as unique like it used to be because almost every team in the conference is the same,” says Hanson, who announced his retirement in May after ten years at the Jackrabbit helm.

“Most international players are looking to continue their education and they are also looking to play at the Division One level.”

The other nonAmericans are freshman Chris Baron, Montreal, Ontario; freshman Jenny Blackburne, Christchurch, New Zealand; sophomore Jamie Dash, Tasmania; freshman Carl Lundberg, Stockholm, Sweden; junior Natalia Medina, Bogota, Colombia; and sophomore James Thorp, Canberra, Australia.

SDSU good, weather bad

Rossetto relates that he wasn’t sure where his tennis career stood back home before coming to SDSU.

“There was no college tennis and I wanted to keep playing,” he says. “This (United States) was the only option, otherwise I would have quit. I e-mailed several schools to get myself recruited and Coach Hanson was one who responded. We hooked up in Tasmania and talked about coming here.”

Rossetto, a junior business economics major, doesn’t regret his decision. “I like Brookings, it’s a nice, friendly place. I like a smaller community because you can do your own thing.”

He adds, though, “the weather isn’t the best,” a fact Hanson always politely warns his incoming international contingent from warmer parts of the world.

“It’s very difficult to tell someone who comes from a place that is warm that it gets very, very cold here, and they just say, ‘well, okay.’ Well, their idea of very cold and our idea of very cold are two different things.”

In Bogota, where lows are in the fifties and highs in the eighties, Medina admits she wasn’t ready for South Dakota’s climate.

“I was very surprised by the cold. Everyone told me, but I thought it can’t be that bad. When I got here it was supposed to be spring, but it was winter the whole time.”

Apart from Mother Nature, Medina, an animal science major, is more than comfortable with her SDSU surroundings.

“I love the University, it has great facilities. I enjoy the open space here with all the open fields. Bogota is huge with so many people and lots of traffic. It can be stressful back home, but here it’s calm and peaceful. It’s a great place, except the weather just kills me!”

According to Hanson, international players broaden the aspect of the tennis program.

“The other players learn about other countries, so it’s a learning process,” he says. “It’s good for the school because by the time we are done, we will have a South Dakota presence in these different countries.”

Man of many things

Hanson, 74, could be considered an import himself, having lived in Tasmania for forty-three years, which explains how he “hooked up” with Rossetto and Dash.

Twice a year (fall, spring) he returned to coach tennis at SDSU, where he enrolled in 1955 and later to General Beadle State Teachers College (Dakota State University) where he graduated in 1961. At Beadle, while doing two years of practice teaching, he started the school’s cross-country program.

Originally from Clear Lake, Hanson coached football, wrestling, and track in Colorado for several years, before returning to SDSU to coach track and field while working on his master’s degree, which he obtained in 1968.

In Australia, he was known as a sports master. With the country having no high school athletic programs, his job was to identify talent and enroll them in national programs, sports institutes, and club organizations.

Away from sports, Hanson has other interests. In Tasmania, he owns ten acres of land with a large vegetable garden. When not in the U.S. and Australia, he lives in Thailand for three months running orphanages and refugee camps, and other refugee camps in nearby Cambodia.

“I have a wonderful family, married for fifty years to a wonderful wife who allows me to do all this stuff, and great kids who are productive citizens and good people,” says Hanson.

He then pauses and directs his thoughts to the players he has coached during the past decade.

“I’ve never had a kid I didn’t like on my teams. I enjoy being around kids, they are the future of this country.”

Hanson, honored at a retirement reception June 2, adds, “I want to thank more people than I can possibly name for allowing my last great adventure in my declining years. I want to thank SDSU for hiring an old warhorse and allowing him to finish the dream he started at SDSU in 1955.”

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