What a story!
When I played tennis for UNC Wilmington (2011-2014), there was this little guy named Holland Baynard around the courts playing tennis and watching the tennis matches of the Seahawks with his family. His little brother Sharky, his mom Kate and his dad Steve were big fans of the team and most of all a loving family that we could call a second home. We would come over for dinner, sail their boat, have fun with the kids and they would cheer for us during all of our matches! Even though Holland had never been in Holland, I could tell him quite a bit about it :-).
At the time, Holland was only around 12 years old, but you could already tell that he was growing fast and that his athleticism would help him in the many sports he played. Holland excelled at lacrosse, cross country, tennis, basketball and eventually even American Football! At the age of 13, he already started taking University classes because his intellectual skills were far more advanced than those of his average co-students in high school. Doing big things on and off the court, field or pitch, Holland was a great example of a student-athlete and a multi-sport athlete!
Showing up late for Christmas Dinner….
During Christmas 2012, Holland and his family invited my teammate Kosta Blank and myself to their home for Christmas Dinner. We were just simple college students, but wanted to surprise them with a little gift that they would remember. We decided to take our game to Walgreens and to print a picture from one of our boat rides for the kids. What we didn’t expect, was a crazy long waiting time at Walgreens, which kept us late for over more than an hour. In the meantime, Kate and Steve were wondering if we would even show up at their long cooked meal. Our phone batteries died and we couldn’t reach out to them. They figured we were just college students and would eventually make it, but after 60 minutes Kate was ready to call it a night…. Fortunately, we did show up (with the picture!) just in time and ended up having a great time that evening.
The years went by and Holland got bigger and stronger. He still couldn’t decide on a single sport and kept playing multiple sports at the high school level. He even took a summer trip to Spain where he trained at one of the best Spanish tennis academies. After I graduated in 2014 I still kept in touch with Holland and his family and followed his results in a variety of sports.
In October 2018, I finally got a chance to visit Wilmington again and of course to see Holland and Sharky again. Back in the day I think I had a little bit more muscle than 13 year old Holland did, but right now he had me beaten. We had a great time (and a great long lunch) with our families and Holland told me about all the decisions he had to make in life. Which sport to play in college? And even more, at which college? He was getting lots of offers from a variety of places; Everybody Wants Holland!
During his time in high school, Holland was told by one of his coaches that if he “tried to do everything you won’t be good at anything”. Fortunately he had many other coaches in his life who supported him and believed in him as he excelled in a variety of different sports. Eventually he received 34 college offers in 4 different sports and was accepted to some great academic institutions including Davidson, Carleton and Carnegie Mellon. Obviously he had to choose one program, and Holland decided to play College Football for Randolph Macon College! What a great opportunity for him and what an extremely good example for many other high school kids that are trying to pursue their athletic dreams in college. If you work hard, anything is possible!
It’s all in the name, Holland!
Holland, I just want to let you know that you can be very proud of yourself and the way you have developed over the last few years. Your family is a great example of the welcoming, open and friendly vibe that every foreign student-athlete wishes for when joining an American University. I will for sure keep following your results and I know for a fact that you are not done yet and that great things are ahead of you in the future. I couldn’t wish for a better person to represent our country :-). You guys will always have a home here in the Netherlands as well. Say hello to your family and keep up the good work, big dog!