Ohio State’s tennis teams go through an estimated 1,600 racquet strings a year and someone has to be there to make sure the racquets are restrung for practice, matches and tournaments.
Jeff Deibel has been stringing racquets at OSU for 35 years and is on call 24/7 for the Buckeyes men’s and women’s tennis teams.
“I have strung on holidays on quite a few occasions,” Deibel said of his constant work schedule. “I have strung on Christmas Eve … I have strung on New Year’s Eve, I’ve also strung on New Year’s Day.”
Deibel holds a day job as an accounting manager at Ice Miller LLP. But after work, he goes to the indoor facility to pick up equipment in need of new strings.
“It could turn out to be an hour’s worth of work, to six or seven hours worth of work depending on what kind of mood they’re in,” Deibel said.
By they, Deibel is speaking of the players who sometimes hold off until the last minute to turn in their racquets, he said.
Sometimes that can mean racquets turning up just before the players have to leave for their next match.
“You find guys and girls emptying their bags, having memory loss of when they turned stuff in last,” Deibel said.
Although waiting until the last minute to turn in a racquet isn’t ideal, Deibel said some players go “overboard” turning racquets in early.
“Last time I looked, you can only play with one racquet at a time, even though they think they got to have three fresh racquets for every match,” Deibel said.
The players are aware that they do this to Deibel, but they look at it as a precaution, redshirt-senior Kevin Metka said.
“We give him so many racquets sometimes, especially after matches he gets a little angry with us … We don’t want our racquet to be almost broken and then you go into a match and you break it in an important point,” Metka said.
Deibel got his start while attending OSU, when former coach John Daly approached him to string for the Buckeyes.
“One year turned into two, and two years turned into 10, and now we’re on our second coach,” Deibel said.
In 1999, Ty Tucker took over the OSU men’s tennis program, and although the staff continued to change, Deibel continued on.
“He was stringing racquets when I was playing here, so I’ve known him well and obviously we have complete faith in what he does,” Tucker, who played for OSU from 1989-1991 said.
A lot has changed over the years, including Deibel’s responsibilities.
Part of that change has come with an advancement in racquet technology, as well as the number of different racquets players might have, Deibel said.
“It used to be a handful of racquets and a handful of strings,” he said. “Now there are so many different racquets and so many different strings.”
The players choose the type of string they want for their racquets, along with the tension they prefer when coming to OSU. But finding the right strings isn’t always easy.
“They have an idea of what they want, on the string side it’s a personal preference,” Deibel said. “If they are playing with an expensive string … we may not be able to get it, it might just be too much out of the budget.
“They rely on me to figure something out.”
There is the occasional player who is more picky than others about their racquets, Deibel said. How people string a racquet can vary and, in some cases, players will disagree with the choice made by Deibel.
“Most of them, as long as it’s the right tension and the right feel, they don’t have any complaints, but there are some that can just be ridiculous,” he said. “Couple of them have sent them back and told me they don’t like the way it was done and then we have a come-to-Jesus meeting.”
Deibel said he normally wins those meetings with backup from Tucker, who “tells them they’re being ridiculous.”
“(Deibel) is a handful, but a good guy,” Tucker said.
Come-to-Jesus meetings and all, the team and Deibel seem to have kept a good relationship overall.
“He knows all of our racquets … He’s a really nice guy. We all love him,” Metka said.
Even with all the time, complaints and last-minute phone calls, Deibel said his second job has a way of overall staying “sort of fun and interesting.”