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Culture Clash

By: Chris Glenn, UWF Sports Information Intern

The University of West Florida men’s tennis team is one of the most culturally diverse of any sport at the college. The team consists of players from seven different countries - Brazil, France, Sweden, Russia, Venezuela, Peru and the United States. The student-athletes come from a variety of different backgrounds and nationalities to form one team, the UWF Argonauts.

There are many obstacles that the student-athletes have to face by being in a new country and at a new university. Language barriers, separation from family and friends and adapting to a different culture are a few of the many adjustments faced upon transferring to UWF.
It seems a hard enough task to come to a new school in a different country and adjust to the culture and people who are there, but for the men’s tennis team, the players had to do a little more than that. They had to take on all of the differences that would normally come with the change and learn to work together with players from seven different nationalities.

The strongest doubles pair on the team is a combination of Leandro Ferreira from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Andrey Pozhidaev from Sochi, Russia. The two came from completely different backgrounds. Together, they make up the No. 1 doubles duo for the Argonauts and the No. 5 doubles tandem in the South Region.

Ferreira, who is the No. 15 player in the nation in singles, came to America for the experience of living in a different country and for the education he would receive at UWF. The transition for Ferreira was a completely different change in every way from his home country, but he has enjoyed the transition. “Everything is different. The food, language, and people are all different, but it was not a hard transition for me,” Ferreira explained. “I really like new things in my life, so it was not a problem at all.”

Playing with such a diverse group of teammates has made the experience more enjoyable for Ferreira. In regards to the cultural differences on the team, Ferreira noted, “I think it is an opportunity to know more about different cultures. It is very interesting how everyone react in different situations in the matches or even in our trips. Also, we know everyone is from a different a place, and it makes us more united as a team because everyone is here for the same reason.”

His doubles partner Andrey Pozhidaev feels similar about the diverse team. “I think it is great. For me it is very interesting to learn something new about a different culture,” stated Pozhidaev. “The most important thing is that we all know that we are a team, and we support each other on and off the court.”

The support and camaraderie of the teammates has strengthened the group as one body working together for the same cause. In addition to winning matches, putting the Argonauts on the map as top 10 in the nation in singles and doubles are the goals for the pair this season.

Both Ferreira and Pozhidaev made the same point of tennis being a very individualistic sport, but at UWF they have each learned to be part of a team that they belong to. The cultural differences have not been anything but strength for the team. With the UWF team listed as No. 8 in the nation and second in the Gulf South Conference East Division, it is very likely the Argonauts will qualify for regional play.

The team has only three matches left for the regular season before heading to the Gulf South Conference and NCAA South Regional tournaments. With just under three weeks left to practice, and a month to prepare for the regional tournament, the pair will train their hardest to bring their very best to the court for the tournaments.

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