By Kevin Wittner
TUCSON, Ariz. – Sports are said to unite people from different backgrounds. Perhaps there is no better example of this than the women’s team from Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., representing the Eastern Section at this weekend’s USTA League 3.0 Adult National Championships at the Jim Reffkin Tennis Center in Tucson, Ariz.
However, the team does not simply represent New York. With players originally from France, Belarus, Ireland, Australia – and even one from England who did not make the trip – players on the team hail from nations all over the world.
Svetlana Rud moved to the States from Belarus in 1992.
"Sports bring everyone together, because you have a common goal," Rud said. "Everyone wants the team to be good there is no other issue – just for the team to be good."
Rud and her teammates all seem to agree that despite their various backgrounds, nobody really notices their differences.
"Everyone is helpful, and I don’t feel myself different from anybody else, except maybe my accent," Rud said.
Fiona Finnan may possess the most individual diversity. Finnan grew up in Ireland before moving to Australia for nine years. A dozen years ago, she moved from Down Under to the U.S., and she now holds citizenship in all three countries.
"The team works great together," Finnan, a program manager and consultant, said.
"The joke is that various people translate for other people. Last year, I ‘translated’ for our Aussie pro," Finnan laughs. "The joke was that when (the coach) spoke, you just nodded and said yes, even though you couldn’t understand him. (Our communication issues) may be a joke every so often but it’s really not a big deal."
Bernadette Leggiero is an importer of fine and rare wine – which makes her especially popular among teammates. In contrast to some of her teammates, she was born and raised in New York.
"The ladies are wonderful," Leggiero says. "It’s always smiles on the court."
As for the considerable diversity on the team, Leggioro says: "That is what New York is about. It doesn’t matter where you are from. It’s funny because when you ask us, we have to think about it. It’s just not something you think about."
Four years ago, Delphine Reda moved from France to New York. While she says that it can be hard to be away from her family back in Nantes, the team’s camaraderie makes things easier.
"Everybody supports each other," Reda said. "If we win a match, it’s OK. If we lose a match, that is OK, too."
The team does not seem to be doing much losing, as the team qualified for nationals.
If, for some reason, the success does not continue it will not be due to a lack of diversity.