Oct. 16, 2008
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 7, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2008-09 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
by Richie Zawistowski
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Greg Holm isn’t your average University of Iowa men’s tennis player. In fact, you could say that the sport runs in his blood. Holm has been playing the game for the past 12 years and his father, Lloyd, competed in high school and college. When you combine knowledge of the game, gifted ability, and an all-around good guy, reviews are going to be overwhelmingly positive.
Holm is in his senior season for the Hawkeyes. He is originally from Omaha, Neb., and attended Creighton Prep High School where he, like his father, was a successful member of the tennis team. Holm had plenty of practice before joining the high school tennis program, since he began playing the game at the age of nine.
“My brother and dad started playing a lot, so I went to the courts with them and I got into playing,” said Holm. “But mostly because of my dad. He played in high school and college.”
Some may look at Holm’s height (6-foot-5) and think he is well-suited to be a basketball player. He says he has been focused primarily on tennis since high school.
“I started playing in sixth grade and decided I wanted to focus on tennis throughout high school,” Holm said. “I played basketball and tennis in junior high.”
That focus has paid off. During high school, Holm was a member of three state championship teams. He was also a two-time state doubles champion. Not only does Holm succeed on the tennis court, but he graduated as a member of the National Honor Society, which is awarded to students showing achievement in scholarship, leadership, service and character.
While tennis was — and is — his focus, UI head coach Steve Houghton commented on Holm’s side away from tennis.
“He has a broad range of interests and is a very good student,” said Houghton. “I would say that he has taken on some leadership positions. He is a captain of our team this year and he has some involvement in ISAAC.”
ISAAC is the Iowa Student Athlete Advisory Committee and is a student-athlete group comprised of two members from each sports program. In addition to ISAAC, Holm has been named academic all-Big Ten the past two seasons as well as making the Dean’s List last spring. Tennis may be his focus, but Holm is a very well-rounded student-athlete.
“I want to go to NCAA’s. It’s been three years now and we’ve come up short, so we have one more year to make that possible.”
UI senior Greg Holm
Holm is one of only two seniors on this season’s men’s tennis team and he is coming off a 2007-08 campaign in which he posted a .607 winning percentage in singles matches — the highest of his tenure at Iowa.
There are aspects of singles matches that Holm enjoys.
“I really like the competitive aspect of it,” Holm said. “You know it’s just you out there. It’s up to you to go out there and do it. You’re still playing for the team, but it’s just you out there on the court.”
Holm has improved in each of his seasons at Iowa and figures to see added improvement this year. This can be attributed to his hard work put in at practice. While Holm admits he needs to attend to his consistency and backhand, he says his strengths are his forehand and serving, which he has an advantage due to his lanky frame.
While his height may give him an advantage, it should not downplay the role of Holm’s preparation before matches.
“Drills help you gain confidence,” he said. “That way you can make every shot and you’re not going to feel like you need to change things technically. If you’re worried about changing little things on a technical basis, you start to over-analyze and then it just falls apart. All you have to focus on is the physical aspect of the sport — getting to the ball, how you set up for the shot with your footwork and your mental preparation, rather than worrying about where your racquet is or how you’re hitting the ball. This should all be taken care of. You want to be so well-prepared that you just have to worry about your opponent.”
Preparation will help breed success, but all the preparation in the world will not matter if you do not have the talent. Holm has tried to style his game and talents over a collage of players.
Some students of the game grow up watching their favorite athletes on television and try to mirror their every move. Whether it’s Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, or John McEnroe, kids are often influenced by their favorite role model and tend to form their game after them. This is not the case with Holm.
“He has a broad range of interests and is a very good student. I would say that he has taken on some leadership positions. He is a captain of our team this year and he has some involvement in ISAAC.”
UI head coach
“I think the more you see professional players play, you take a little bit from everybody,” he said. “You try to make yourself the perfect player by taking little bits from what everybody does.”
No player is going to be perfect, but with a combination of talent and hard work, success could follow. When asked about his favorite memories as a Hawkeye, Holm was quick to point out two instances.
“The best would be last year when we played Indiana at home,” he said. “It was my first Big Ten match and I believe they were ranked No. 31 at the time. I was playing the sixth singles match and I won in a third-set tiebreak. That turned out to be the deciding match, so we clinched the match and won the whole heat. Then, the year before my doubles partner and I won against Indiana, we came back from 7-2 down to win the doubles point. When we won our match our team won, so that put our team up 1-0 and we came from behind to do it.”
While reflecting on past achievements is common, living in the past is never a good thing for any athlete, especially Holm. There is always room to improve and always new goals to for which to strive. Holm is hungry for success this season and he immediately pointed out his goals.
“I want to go to NCAA’s,” he said. “It’s been three years now and we’ve come up short, so we have one more year to make that possible.”
Houghton echoed those comments.
“A logical goal would be to be in top half in the Big Ten,” Houghton said. “We were really close last year. If you do that, then our team most likely will be making the NCAA Tournament.”
Making the NCAA Tennis Tournament would a fitting culmination for Holm and the Hawkeye tennis team. It would also give the rest of the NCAA a chance to see just what Greg Holm is capable of accomplishing.