April 29, 2008
ATLANTA – A year ago, with Georgia Tech head coach Bryan Shelton in the midst of guiding Georgia Tech to its third-consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title and preparing to begin the Yellow Jackets’ eighth-straight NCAA Tournament run, the then-eighth year head coach was informed that his two-year assistant, Mariel Verban, would be leaving the program. She was moving to California to be with her fiancé, but Shelton knew he’d have tough shoes to fill after her role in helping the squad to the school’s first NCAA title.
“I knew we would need to bring in someone that was strong,” said Shelton. “The person would have to be an on-court coach, but also one that would be able to coach them individually while being totally committed to the program.”
Shelton didn’t need to look far. Over the previous three years, he’d seen a player within his own conference rise to the occasion again and again, both on the court and off, and thought that she’d be a perfect fit for Georgia Tech’s rising program and rigorous academic standards.
“Having been around Anca Dumitrescu in the past, watching her playing career, and then seeing her coaching career developing, I thought that she’d be my first choice if I had the opportunity to get her at Georgia Tech,” Shelton said.
Dumitrescu began her playing career at Virginia Commonwealth before transferring to Florida State in 2005. There, she went on two earn All-ACC honors on two occasions while playing atop the singles lineup. She also knew that attending college was a gift, not a commodity.
“One reason (that I chose to attend Florida State) was that they were paying for me to finish my degree. I earned two degrees, one in multinational business and another in communications, along with minors in international affairs and anthropology,” Dumitrescu said.
After completing an undergraduate honors thesis that was presented at the Southern States Communication Association Conference, Dumitrescu received the ACC’s Weaver-James-Corrigan Postgraduate Scholarship and chose to remain at Florida State for another season.
While completing her Masters degree in communication, she was asked to assist the new Seminole coaching staff rather than serve as a fifth-year manager to the team, as she thought. It was during this time that she first had the idea of using her multiple degrees, her teaching experience within the classroom (she spent a year teaching public teaching at Florida State while completing her Masters), her international experience and her love of tennis to teach others the same game.
“My experience is totally unique,” Dumitrescu said. “Coming from Romania and growing up in a totally different system – from school to tennis to communism – really helped me understand the differences between people. I’ve tried to understand them my whole life, and I think it’s one of my strengths when relating to others – trying to communicate that and my experiences as a player on the tour.”
Shelton has used her experiences as a building block for his young program, which welcomed three freshmen – two of which are from oversees – in the 2007-08 season.
“The biggest thing that she has brought is the ability to communicate and the ability to do the every day work,” Shelton said. “College coaching requires more than just showing up for practice. There are so many different facets of the job, including recruiting. She has been instrumental in developing leads on recruits and finding the right talent for our program – both on and off the court. She works hand-in-hand with academic services to ensure that our players have every opportunity to do well academically, and she has done the bulk of the paperwork involved with getting our student-athletes into school.
“Being an international coach, and having grown up in Romania, Anca doesn’t take anything for granted. She sees the opportunities that we have here in the United States, and especially at Georgia Tech, and is able to share her perspective on what a great opportunity that it is. She’s fully taken advantage of this chance, and it’s really opened the eyes of our team to hear her stories, what she went through, and her experiences.”
One of the biggest differences Dumitrescu found between her upbringing and that of the United States is the way tests are administered. In Europe, the majority of exams are in essay format, or even oral, and the grading system is drastically different.
“Understanding the system and the expectations was of vital importance when I first began as a student in the United States,” Dumitrescu said. “I didn’t have a coach from Europe at the time, but my college coach taught me about the importance of communication with professors, coaches, and people in my environment because it is those relationships that allow us to be successful in the outside world.”
She instills the same wisdom to her team, and has spent several hours explaining differences to the Yellow Jackets’ two international freshmen.
“I have had several conversations with all of the girls about classes,” Dumitrescu said. “We’ve been overseeing the three freshmen that came in very closely, because it is difficult already entering Georgia Tech as a freshman but even more-so for an international freshman. If my understanding of the difference in systems, the expectations, the time management, and grading systems can benefit our players, then I feel as though I’ve made an impact.”
“Anca can relate so well to our international team members,” Shelton added, “especially the ones from Europe. She can speak to them in their own language, which is a huge benefit of having her in our program. That aspect, combined with the fact that she is someone that understands what it takes to succeed academically at a tough institution makes her advice to our team worth so much more. She has guided them in the right direction and works to get them all that they need to be successful.”
Fluent in Romanian, English, German and French with the understanding of the Italian language has served her well, both as a coach and player. But it’s her understanding of the entire college experience for a successful student-athlete that sets her far above the rest.
“It certainly helps our program to have her around,” Shelton said. “Parents who are looking at Georgia Tech know that we have two coaches that value an education and her background speaks volumes to that.”
The team’s success on the court speaks just as much for Dumitrescu’s influence, as the Yellow Jackets captured their second-straight ITA National Indoor Team Championship in February before earning their fourth-consecutive ACC Regular Season title in April. Georgia Tech now looks to continue their success in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, where they hope to win the national championship for the second-straight year.
“We are excited about the postseason,” Shelton said. “There are such good memories from last year, and we are preparing to bring our very best out again in 2008. Being selected to the tournament is just a credit to the hard work that both the girls and coaching staff have put in this season.”
Dumitrescu is a part of that staff – and if her success in life is any indication, the Yellow Jackets are in a perfect spot to repeat in 2008.