CU Buffs tennis coach putting season cancellation in perspective

Danielle Steinberg’s team was enjoying good season before new coronavirus put abrupt end to campaign

Courtesy of CU Athletics
Colorado head tennis coach Danielle Steinberg is in her second year leading the Buffaloes.

Like just about everyone in the sports world who had a season abruptly canceled this month because of concerns over the new coronavirus, Danielle Steinberg’s initial reaction was one of disappointment.

“Especially since we were just starting to peak,” said Steinberg, the head coach of the Colorado women’s tennis team. “We just started the Pac-12 season and things were really coming together. We lost at Washington, but that was probably the best match we played and playing against a top-30 team at that level, we felt really good.

“So obviously, the first reaction is just big disappointment. But, then we put things into perspective and … understand the bigger picture.”

The bigger picture, not only for Steinberg but for the majority of the world, is to do their part to slow the spreading of the virus and to keep the safety of everyone as the top priority. At CU, student-athletes were encouraged to go home and the entire university will finish the semester with remote learning.

Steinberg’s roster is unique, however, as it features several foreign players. Of the nine players on the CU roster, six are from overseas.

“It’s definitely a lot more challenging than just being able to get in the car and drive to Minnesota or Fort Collins,” she said. “We do have some local kids that were fortunate enough to head home right away. But the kids that are here, the international kids, they’re still our No. 1 priority, and we take care of them just like they are our own kids.

“I think they feel safe and, at the end of the day, it’s their family decision and some of them chose to stay; some of them chose to leave. But either way, if they’re here, we’re taking care of them as much as we can.”

CU has players from Australia, England, Finland, Germany and Ireland, as well as from Minnesota, Texas and Fort Collins.

Steinberg, in her second year as the Buffs’ head coach, is a native of Israel, which has had more than 1,400 cases of coronavirus, as of Monday. She said her loved ones in Israel are healthy.

As for tennis, Steinberg said she and a lot of other coaches are trying to stay on as normal of a routine as possible.

“If you ask coaches everywhere, the first couple of weeks after season are always very empty, and you kind of don’t know what to do with yourself,” she said. “(This time), it basically happened overnight.

“Recruiting is 24/7, year round. Most of our recruiting is online anyway. Obviously, we can’t meet anyone right now, but the job really never stops. But it has been a personal challenge.”

Although there is no firm timetable on a return to sports, Steinberg is looking forward to that day. The Buffs, who were 8-6 this spring, would begin their fall season in September.

CU had just one senior on the roster this year, Monica Malinen of Finland. The Buffs’ No. 1 singles player, Malinen is one of many spring sports seniors who could get an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA.

“We’re taking it day by day and seeing what the NCAA decides,” Steinberg said. “But either way, Monica is someone that showed up every day for work, regardless of what’s going on in her life, regardless if she’s tired or not feeling very well. She’s definitely a leader by example on our team, in terms of work ethic, and just doing whatever you can to be at 100%. So if it is her last season, that’s something that we’ll miss for sure. She’s made a huge impact on the program that would last for years to come.”

With or without Malinen next year, Steinberg is hoping life is back to normal and that the Buffs continue their improvement as a program.

“We’ve been basically improving, I would say, every match since I got here,” she said. “Obviously, there’s some ups and downs, especially when the team is so young. Looking at the big picture and the culture and just having the mentality the team has right now, that’s definitely feeling like an improvement. I definitely think we’re heading in the right direction.”