CLAREMONT, Calif. - Playing almost his entire career on the No. 1 lines in singles and doubles, Nikolai Parodi had an incredibly successful four years with the CMS men's tennis team, winning 187 matches, reaching the national championship match twice with the Stags as a team and once as an individual competing in singles. Although his final chance at the national title he was hoping for was cut short this year by the suspension of spring sports, Parodi says he would make the exact same choice four years ago to join the Stags.
Parodi was an All-American in both singles and doubles in all three completed seasons with the Stags, finishing ranked in the top five in the nation in singles all three years, and was the first player to win the SCIAC Men's Tennis Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year Awards in the same season. Academically, he is an economics and psychology dual major at Claremont McKenna, who interned last summer in D.C. working for a company exporting national gas to Asia, a role in which his fluency in Russian from living in Moscow for nearly seven years came in handy.
We asked Parodi a few questions about his experience as a CMS student-athlete below. (Note: The CMS-ence features have been built around video question and answer profiles for the last two years, but due to the spring sport student-athletes finishing their academic careers off campus, we will adjust to a written Q&A format instead).
Q: What does it take to be a successful collegiate tennis player?
Parodi: It is a ton of commitment every day. I spend at least 15-20 hours each week on the court or in the gym doing fitness. With the amount of matches we play each season, we lose every Saturday and most Fridays, so we lose at least 1 day, sometimes more, when it comes to doing school work. Especially when we have double headers, we spend around 7 hours on court, so it makes it difficult to do work after you've spent all your energy on the two matches - whether watching or playing. If we travel, often times we will be doing work on the plane or in between our matches, so that we don't get too far behind. As an example, my sophomore year, I had to study for a midterm on the plane ride back from Indoors to school because I didn't have as much time to study due to the number of matches we had. So it is a grind - it is essentially like having a job on campus. Also, our team sets high standards and we often put in extra work outside of the minimum requirement to be more fit and prepared for our big matches. We also try to practice our mental strength because, at the end of the day, the outcomes of most matches comes down to who can be tougher.
Q: What was the most memorable match you played in over your four years?
Parodi: It is hard to pinpoint to one specific match, especially against rival schools because all of those ones are memorable. My freshman year we had the craziest matches because we'd go down 3-0 after doubles against top D3 teams and would climb back and win. In terms of a team match, beating Midd in the NCAA semis (2017) after going down 3-0 was probably the most memorable one. The environment was quite electric and the emotions after Max (a senior at the time) clinched were just insane. It was so late, probably midnight when we finished and the most fun part was that after we won, nothing was open except for a waffle house so at 1 am our entire team is celebrating and eating waffles and then we slept in to prep for the finals against Emory.
Q: What is your favorite course that you have taken in college?
Parodi: I think my favorite course I have taken has been outside of my major. I am currently in a government class called Conflict Interventions and it is very interesting because the focus of it is why third parties, whether it is an individual or a state, choose to intervene or choose not to intervene in conflicts between the other two parties. For me, I think it has been my favorite course because the class is very hands on and is based on major events in history and I have learned a lot of details about many of these events that I had little knowledge of prior to taking this course.
Q: How did you spend last summer?
Parodi: I spent my summer working in D.C. at Tellurian, which is a company that focuses on exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) mainly to countries in Asia. I spent most of my time attending events relating to natural gas and writing up reports for my bosses. It was pretty interesting because they were in their early stages of growth and still needed several permits to really take off as a company but it was also fun because it wasn't the usual internship that many students at this school would choose - usually it is consulting or something relating to finance. Since I had 3 bosses, if I didn't have work for one of them I'd go to the other 2 and they wouldn't be the ones to come to me unless something was urgent. So I really had to take initiative and ask to be put on assignments so that I could learn more about the industry they were working in because I had almost no knowledge of LNG. Although I realized that I don't want to pursue a career in this industry I think it was valuable to try something different and see if it were something I would actually be interested in doing.
Q: What has being a Stag meant to you?
Parodi: Being a Stag has been the most unbelievable experience and it has been an honor to play for CMS over these past 4 years. Every year our team has been very special and every guy is able to trust one another, which is something you don't always get. It has been inspiring to have been led by an amazing group of upperclassmen and then to have grown into becoming a leader myself alongside the other 4 seniors. I have built some of my closest friendships and my best memories with these guys and they have made my college experience so much better. While being a D3 athlete has allowed me to study abroad and focus on academics and social life, I think when looking back on my college days I will always be reminded of the coaches and group of guys that I was surrounded by that made my college experience so special. The day our season ended I told my entire team that if you told me in high school that if I chose CMS I wouldn't win a title, I would still choose to come here because of the guys on the team and the experiences they have given me - no rings and titles can replace my journey as a Stag.