Tennis is different. Tennis is laid-back compared to the money making sports. Tennis is a welcome break for Associate Director/Sports Information Director Mark Kimmel. After dealing with Men's Soccer in the fall and Women's Basketball all winter, this member of the UNC Athletic Communications Department is worn down by full days spent with teams and coaches.
Spring is for tennis though. Women's tennis at the University of North Carolina, in Mark's opinion, is the most under-appreciated sport, in terms of spectators and student interest. The team is nationally ranked, they've won ACC and National Championships, and the individual players are some of the best tennis players, and best people, you'll meet.
Unlike a soccer game where he shows up two hours early, or a basketball game that becomes an all-day affair, Mark doesn't have to show up to the Cone-Kenfield Tennis center until about half an hour before the match begins. His job is to receive the line-up for the match from head coach Brian Kalbas, add the day's information into the stats program the UNC Athletic Department uses, and then wait for it all to begin.
This is when it gets tricky, though, as tennis is a swift played sport, dynamics changing constantly between competitors. The actual match is when Mark must control the scoreboard for fans in attendance, keep up with the online statistics for those that could not be in attendance and for the records of the athletic department and the visiting team's athletic department, and write up the match wrap-up to upload to the GoHeels official website. With six matches going on simultaneously, it may be hard to keep up and find calm in the chaos of constant vigilance, but the beauty is there.
The match is also when Mark tweets updates: doubles points, singles points, match points. Sometimes, for a big match, or a close match, Mark will video the match points, either via Periscope or Instagram.
Post-match, Mark confers with the media in attendance and asks who they would like to speak to. It is then his job to gather up the players as well as Coach Kalbas and supervise the interviews so that the media questioning doesn't become offensive or too off-track. Occasionally, Mark will Tweet out quotes he finds entertaining, funny, or informational.
The job is not without sacrifices though. Mark has a life outside of Carolina Athletics. With a wife and two boys, Mark sometimes has trouble finding balances. He often misses basketball games of his children for collegiate women's basketball games. He misses family events for his job. That's the part no one thinks about, but Mark's job is mostly after hours, outside of the typical 9 to 5, forty-hour a week job. Mark Kimmel works weekends and evenings and spends a lot of time traveling. He has interns though, through the Athletic Department, that help him to manage the workload. Some of the more trusted interns manage women's tennis matches in Mark's complete absence. As I did just this past week.
The team had a double header and after spending the afternoon match with Mark he felt confident after having worked with me for a year, that I could handle the statistics and the media for the night match.
I had to take deep breathes. I had to devote myself fully to the multiple tasks at hand.
It was daunting, but exhilarating that Mark trusted me.
As Mark had pre-written the GoHeels match re-cap after the afternoon match, I didn't have to worry about that, but everything else was under my control.
I managed it, too. I did the stats, I worked the scoreboard, and I even directed interviews for the Daily Tar Heel post match.
I did it.
There's a balance to be found though, and Kimmel, who has has been in the business since he graduated in 2001, has found that balance. Some events are harder to schedule around, but the joy of having both a wonderful family and a job that he loves are more than enough for him.
As someone who's looking to get into the business herself, Mark Kimmel is a true inspiration. A genuinely nice guy and a well-respected colleague; I'm lucky to work with and learn from one of the best in the business.