Putting in a 100 percent from behind the court

Courtesy Creative Commons

Freshman walk-on Men’s Tennis player Scotland Garapedian is fascinated with a particular quote from J.K. Simmon’s character in the movie Whiplash: “There are not two words in the English language more harmful than good job.”

Though Simmon’s character was an abusive music conductor, what Garapedian said he derived from the quote was the need to constantly push oneself past what is merely “good.”

“If a player settles for just ‘good,’” Garapedian said in a recent blog post, “they have to step up and take ownership for themselves.”

This is an ideal he has followed throughout his life.

Garapedian was involved with tennis from a very young age. Garapedian said his father Barry Garapedian and his uncle Steven Oliver were avid fans of the sport and played during their college years, though they never became professional players. The Garapedians even had a tennis court in their backyard.

With tennis in such close proximity to him, it was a matter of time before Garapedian started playing as well.

“It was easy to play having all those things,” Garapedian said.

According to Garapedian, he first began playing tennis at the age of three.

“Getting on the court at a young age is hard to describe,” Garapedian said. “You just simply enjoyed every moment of it.”

At the age of eight, the time when Garapedian said he was starting to get good at the sport, he was diagnosed with Sever’s Disease, the inflammation of the growth plate of the heel, keeping him from playing the game for four years. Garapedian said he had just started to play in United States Tennis Association junior tournaments when he was diagnosed. It didn’t help that Garapedian said he always loved to run in general.  

“I couldn’t play, walking was painful, running was very painful at times,” Garapedian said. “It was difficult because I really enjoyed tennis, and here it is a sport I can’t play even though I’m very passionate about it.”

However, Garapedian did not give up on what he loved even though it became increasingly painful. He said he went to many doctors to find out how to quickly heal his injuries. Each doctor gave him a different solution. One doctor put both of his legs in casts for six weeks, another put him in physical therapy three times a week, another gave him stretches he could do at home every morning for a half hour, and a doctor he met at age 10 told him he would outgrow the injury by age 12.

The last doctor was correct. The pain gradually faded months at a time, he said.

“I was like ‘Wow, I can run without it hurting,'” he said. “I could go run to the ball without saying ‘Oh my gosh my feet hurt.'”

After his recovery, Garapedian rejoined the USTA junior tournaments. Garapedian said he won a few of these junior tournaments, estimating five or six singles tournaments and two doubles tournaments. He said he was even ranked in the top 60 in the California branch of the USTA, further narrowed to the top 55 in Southern California branch of the USTA.

His love for the sport eventually led him to Pepperdine’s own Men’s Tennis Team.Garapedian said he lives in Malibu and always had the university in mind for his college of choice. His father is also involved with Pepperdine’s Crest Advisory Board, Garapedian said, which binds him to the campus even more.

Besides the existing links he has to the campus, he said he also observed the team’s performance from the audience’s seat. When he sent the email to the team’s coach, Marcelo Ferreira, requesting to be part of the tennis team, Garapedian said he knew what he was getting himself into. Garapedian was attracted to the Men’s Tennis Team because of Ferreira. He said the kind of player culture Ferreira promotes is beneficial to tennis as it downplays the inherent selfishness of the sport.

“Tennis is all about you out there compared to basketball where you have five teammates on the court at a time,” Garapedian said. “Bringing a team atmosphere into (tennis), that’s the culture he brings.”

Ferreira offered him a spot on the team in spring 2015. As it turns out, Ferreira also sees potential in Garapedian. Ferreira said he got the immediate impression from Garapedian that he was a player who understood his role in the team and would never try to overstep his role. More importantly, Garapedian could get along with the rest of the team very easily.

“People who just met Scotland can tell he is a great guy,” Ferreira said.

Ferreira said Garapedian is also an incredibly helpful teammate, always being the first to call for medical attention whenever a fellow player suffers an injury and is usually the first to fill up the team’s water bottles. He is also willing to help his teammates more directly, Ferreira said, such as when he helped fellow player and freshman Gabriel Sydney improve his forehand swings.

“It’s not about him,” Ferreira said. “It’s about the team.”

Garapedian’s teammates also had good things to say about him. The captain of the team, junior Guilherme Hadlich, said Garapedian cares a lot about the team and is willing to bring “a lot of the good energy” during every game and practice session. In particular, Hadlich said it was impressive Garapedian could easily grasp the team dynamics despite being a freshman.

“He helps on the court and off the court,” Hadlich said.

Despite Garapedian being a relatively new addition to the team, Ferreira said he made friends with his seniors very quickly.

“He’s a freshman but he became a brother very fast,” sophomore Nico Baez said.

Though Garapedian is officially part of the team, he has yet to participate on the court during the official matches. Unlike several other players on the team, Garapedian is a walk-in and thus is not supported by scholarship, denoting his comparative inexperience. Garapedian said his goal by the end of his student career is to improve himself enough to be part of the official team line-up.

At the moment, Garapedian is working on improving his performance and physical stature. This means evaluating his strengths and weaknesses during practice while also pushing his body past its limits. In some respects, Garapedian is already achieving his goals. During the team’s training session on exercise bikes Garapedian recently aimed to hit 15 miles in 30 minutes, a mile above his previous record.

On evaluating his weaknesses, Garapedian said he puts too much emphasis on winning, which causes him to play too tightly and defensively. Ferreira added he needed to work on his backhand. Though Ferreira could not promise Garapedian a spot in the line-up in the future, he said Garapedian was taking all of the right steps. Being surrounded by upperclassmen who had more years of experience helps, Garapedian said.

Ferreira said Garapedian knows there is no guarantee he will be part of the line-up in the future, yet tries to improve himself anyways, something Ferreira said he finds admirable.

“It is tough working as hard as he is, not knowing if he will be part of the line-up,” Ferreira said.

Though Garapedian would like to be part of the team’s line-up, he said he is not planning to pursue a full-time tennis career. Like his father, Garapedian hopes to pursue a job in the financial management business and is currently majoring in Organizational Communication.

However, tennis will always remain his passion, Garapedian said. Tennis in a way fits his overall ideal of pushing past your limits. He said tennis allows him to put his mind toward an activity, one that constantly pushes him to become better and to always work hard.   

Christopher Chen completed this story in Dr. Ken Waters spring 2016 Jour 590 course on sports journalism.