When Old Dominion slashed its athletics budget earlier this year due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic, it left many athletes like tennis player Federico Rebecchini with plenty of uncertainty. Rebecchini, a Verona, Italy, native, was told that the program no longer had a scholarship for him.
After some thought, Rebecchini decided to transfer across town to Norfolk State, where he will join a familiar face in John Brinkman, a former volunteer assistant at Old Dominion who had joined the Spartans prior to the 2020 spring season.
In his COVID-shortened sophomore season with the Monarchs, Rebecchini earned five singles and seven doubles wins. Now, he’s excited for a new opportunity and to get started with his new team.
“I want to really do my best in practice and work hard at the gym and on the court,” he said. “What I’ve learned being here these two years, if you do everything good and excellent on the court and in the gym, it’s not enough to be a great student-athlete. You have to commit yourself 100% in class. On the court, I want to play in a high position. I think I have the skills to do that.”
In addition to Rebecchini, Norfolk State will return three players from the 2020 season, as well as welcoming a new head coach in Mike Mucci.
Before he left Italy two years ago, Rebecchini spent a lot of time on Facebook friend-requesting coaches in his search for an ideal place to attend. He wound up receiving a message from Old Dominion head coach Dominik Mueller, who said that the Monarchs were looking to recruit some more players for their roster. Rebecchini was interested after hearing positive things from friends already in America and then, after taking a visit to the Old Dominion campus and meeting his would-be future teammates, he knew that he “had to choose ODU.”
Rebecchini first began looking into colleges across the pond because of his desire to balance his athletic aspirations with higher education. Concentrating on both simultaneously will help him keep his options open down the line, he said.
“In Europe, you don’t have the chance to play tennis and study (at a) high level,” said Rebecchini, who classified fifth in his age group in Italy prior to coming to the United States. "… Either you play tennis or you go to university. In America, it’s a great choice for me, because you have both.
“For me, right now, tennis is super important but studying … like I’m doing right now is really important, too. You never know. I don’t know if I’m going to play tennis (as a) pro or if I’m going to do something else, so it’s good for me to be here.”
Right now, Rebecchini is studying business, but he’s not sure yet what his focus will be. With the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, he has plenty of time to figure it out. Mostly, he’s happy to be able to stay in Norfolk, a city that he grew to love during his time at Old Dominion, in large part due to its proximity to the ocean and plenty of beaches to visit in the warm weather.
But when the spring season rolls around, Rebecchini’s focus will be where it needs to be: on the tennis court.
“I think, as a team, we can do well,” he said. “If you set a goal in your mind, it’s not as hard as you think.”
Sian Wilkerson, firstname.lastname@example.org
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