|After a four year ‘Span’ at ISU, going pro is next step|
|Written by Kevin Powell, Daily Vidette Reporter|
|Wednesday, 18 April 2012 18:46|
Illinois State head men’s tennis coach Cris James had a very specific idea of the type of player he wanted to build his program around when he arrived on campus four years ago.
David Span, or as his teammates call him, Skip, was one of James’ first recruits and was the type of kid he was seeking to begin his tenure.
“He was my second recruit brought to ISU,” James said of the Somers, NY native. “A lot of the things I saw in him have come to fruition. He’s a very good athlete, very fast and strong, all of those things are what you look for.”
The physical attributes Span possesses were appealing, but it was other intangibles that really lured James in.
“Maybe the bigger things I saw in him was that he had high goals for himself; he wanted to play professional tennis,” James said. “When I talked to him he was very into the team, and making his mark [at ISU], and I wanted to make a mark with our program on a national level and he was into that.”
Span, James, and ISU seemed like a perfect grouping; it was a win-win situation for everybody.
“I knew he was a first-year head coach,” Span said of James. “And he had played at a professional level and I had aspirations of playing professionally … and I knew I wanted to study sports medicine … academically and athletically it made sense.”
For Span, the road to ISU began when he was taught the fundamentals of the game by his father, who self-taught himself the game at a young age.
As an African-American, Span grew up admiring tennis legend Arthur Ashe, who is the only black man to win a singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and Australian Open.
The US Open is also played in a stadium, not too far from Span’s hometown in New York, named after the civil rights activist.
“My dad is first and foremost my idol because I wouldn’t be here without him,” Span said. “But when I got in to the game Arthur Ashe was definitely one of my idols.”
Span knows he may stick out being a rarity in the world of tennis, but brings a strong mindset to combat any adversity.
“I mean there’s always going to be obstacles and challenges being a minority,” said Span. “But I am always trying to keep it in the back of my mind when I’m on the court and with academics, and [I just try] to make the most out of the opportunities that I have been given.”
James has seen Span’s perseverance grow throughout his time at ISU, and knows he has succeeded on the court and off.
“He’s gotten to the point where he takes care of his own business,” said James. “He’s done well in the classroom, and figured out how to take responsibility, and has grown into a leader and somebody other people can count on.”
Span has been a quality competitor on the court for ISU as he has been named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week multiple times and has earned a national Intercollegiate Tennis Association doubles ranking of No. 56 at one point, among other achievements.
This season Span has amassed a 12-13 singles record, and has his mind set on big things to end his career as a Redbird.
“End of season goals we want to make the NCAA National Tournament and qualify by winning the MVC tournament. That’s a big goal of mine,” Span said.
Span will continue to pursue his dream of playing professional tennis one day while hoping to gain admission into graduate school for sports management.