6/29/2017

In Search of Rigor

This magazine article is part of Spring/Summer 2017 / Issue 89

Diplomat Spotlight: Inigo Flores ’17 

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Inigo Flores ’17 loves a challenge. The co-captain of the Franklin & Marshall men’s tennis team says he needs them to be engaged.

As a student-athlete at F&M, he hasn’t faced many challenges like the one he had May 3. That afternoon, the Diplomats traveled to the eastern shore of Maryland for a Centennial Conference (CC) playoff clash with Washington College. The match took place in the heart of F&M’s finals week – and Flores was deprived of sleep. It also came just four days after the teams engaged in a heated regular-season contest.

“The playoff was full of intensity and emotion. Triple the number of people that we usually have showed up to watch,” says Flores, a native of Spain. “I kept thinking about all the work I had to do, but instead I had to play a psychologically demanding match. Fans were yelling at us, and my neck hurt from all the tension. My opponent started screaming at me in Spanish to get in my head. But I thrive in high pressure.”

Flores won his singles match and, with partner Jake Rothman ’18, won in doubles as well. But his day was far from over. After a long ride back to Lancaster, he needed to study for an exam and complete a paper – despite his exhaustion.

Academic and athletic challenges such as the ones he faced May 3 are why Flores transferred to F&M from Berry College in Georgia two years ago. He enrolled at Berry after learning about it through a sport management company in Spain that connects student-athletes to programs abroad. But after a short time, he realized he wanted a more rigorous institution. A contact in Spain knew F&M coach Sean Kelleher and connected Flores with him.

“Academics were my first priority, but I wanted to continue to play competitive tennis. F&M sounded like the perfect combination of rigorous schoolwork and demanding athletics,” says Flores, an economics major. “And I liked Coach K’s vision to create a strong team culture. On road trips, there’s no such thing as a quiet van ride. We talk and bond. During matches, we push each other on the court and from the sidelines.”

Flores takes the team aspect of college tennis to heart. One of his most memorable moments in an F&M uniform was a tightly contested loss last season to a player from highly ranked Swarthmore.

“It was heartbreaking,” he says. “I dreamed about that match for weeks because I felt I let my teammates down. One of the beauties of college tennis is that it encompasses the individual qualities of the sport with a team component. You’re not just playing for yourself, but something greater than you. That’s one of the lessons you learn in losses.”

The Diplomats reached the CC playoffs for the eighth consecutive season in 2017. Flores and Rothman earned first-team All-CC honors after recording a 14-3 mark. The duo also earned spots on the CC Spring Academic Honor Roll, along with teammate Will Samuels ’19.

As a native of Spain, Flores is often asked if he’s a big fan of the legendary Rafael Nadal. But he’s more a fan of David Ferrer –  a player Flores can better relate to. “Ferrer is not the most gifted player. He is short, but he fights like no other,” Flores says. “My Ferrer-like attributes force me to play smart and think of ways to exploit my opponents’ weaknesses​. I think that’s a fun part of tennis, one that also allows me to develop my critical thinking skills.”

Flores hopes to use smart tactics in his career, too. Before pursuing a career in public policy, he’d like to work as an economic consultant back in Spain. “It’s a dynamic industry, where you work on a different case every week,” he says. “Every week is a new challenge. Just what I need.”

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