Senior Richard Blumenfeld calls himself the glue of the men’s tennis team.
He’s a captain, two-time Atlantic 10 champion and owns an undefeated record at the No. 6 singles slot on the spring season, going 7-0. But at the end of the day, Blumenfeld thinks his top contribution is being the Colonial who holds the team together.
“Off the court, I bring everyone together. If everyone is tense, then I am the jokester. If they are goofing off, then I can be stern,” Blumenfeld said. “I just really think that I bring chemistry to the team. I hold everyone together.”
Now that GW won its second straight A-10 trophy, Blumenfeld and his teammates are preparing to return to the NCAA tournament. It’s a chance for redemption after falling in the first round of last year’s competition to Duke.
True to his nature, Blumenfeld wants nothing more than to motivate his teammates for the NCAA tournament. GW’s doubled down on its practice efforts, rotating through drills that are designed to push the team's play to a higher level. And as the captain, Blumenfeld is determined to lead by example. He won’t slack off as he prepares for the final tournament.
“I’m going to try and push everybody. In practice, I’m going to play even harder so that they can raise their level,” Blumenfeld said. “I really think that we have a real shot going into NCAAs. I hope that there is going to be a dynasty here.”
Both head coach Greg Munoz and fellow senior Ugur Atalay speak to the unmistakable brand of leadership Blumenfeld brings to the team. He’s a responsible captain, Munoz said – one who has the persona and charisma to motivate the rest of his teammates’ play.
“Richard has a very outgoing personality. His time at GW has given him the confidence to try anything and succeed,” Munoz said. “He has a great heart, and people see that in him. That’s why he will succeed.”
Atalay agreed, adding that he has watched Blumenfeld grow and mature over their four years together into a player who always puts the team above himself.
Once, Atalay said, Blumenfeld gathered the Colonials to tell each teammate individually what he values about their contribution to the squad. Blumenfeld’s outspoken leadership, Atalay
said, motivates the rest of the roster. Blumenfeld cheers louder than anyone else, Atalay added, and his upbeat personality and close relationship with the other members of GW’s squad boost his teammates’ play.
“When we were both freshmen, I viewed him being angrier when he was missing shots and not playing well. As he has become an upperclassman, he has changed his behavior in practices, and during matches also,” Atalay said. “It’s a hard sport to deal with your mental toughness. He has matured a lot, so in practice, he helps us a lot.”
Blumenfeld has watched the team’s performance rise along with his own. During his first two seasons with the Colonials, the squad narrowly missed claiming the A-10 title, losses he called “heartbreaking.” But they were defeats that motivated GW in the ensuing years, pushing it to claim the next two A-10 championships.
They were victories in which Blumenfeld played a large role – both on the court and from the sidelines – cheering on his teammates. Munoz said the senior’s move to the No. 6 slot this year, after sitting higher on the team’s ladder in seasons past, was crucial in his development.
“His true calling was at No. 6, but with other players good at that spot, he was looked to play higher and that made it a bigger challenge for him,” Munoz said. “[This season’s success] was important for him, because he doubted himself a lot. But I feel that came from the pressure of performing for the team, regardless of his position.”
Once the lights dim on GW’s season, Blumenfeld’s collegiate tennis career will be over. He’ll remember it as something he never took lightly, an unexpected gift born of unrelenting work.
“Tennis has been one of those things that I had to work at my whole life. I wasn’t naturally gifted,” Blumenfeld said. “If you asked me before I came to GW if I would win two A-10 titles, and be captain and all of the other accolades, I’d be like, ‘Yeah right, you’re joking.’ ”