Cyndi Sullivan, right, chats with former Mississippi State softball player Kayla Winkfield, who now plays professionally for the Houston Scrap Yard Dawgs, at MSU's campus Saturday during State's game against Ole Miss. Sullivan, who is the co-president for the MSU Softball Booster Club, has been friends with Winkfield since Winkfield's sophomore year at MSU. Photo by: Austin Frayser/Special to The Dispatch
Cyndi Sullivan poses with Mississippi State Head Softball Coach Vann Stuedeman, left, during State's game against Ole Miss at MSU's campus Saturday. As co-president for the MSU Softball Booster Club and a paraprofessional tennis coach at Starkville High School, Sullivan spends much of her time working with student athletes.
Photo by: Austin Frayser/Special to The Dispatch
April 22, 2019 9:41:53 AM
Cyndi G. Sullivan plans to spend this summer playing tennis with her 12-year-old daughter Margaret Ann.
The sixth grader at Armstrong Middle School will be able to try out for varsity tennis next year, Cyndi said, and she's already getting ready for try-outs. For Cyndi, who played tennis when she attended Heritage Academy in Columbus and who coaches tennis as a paraprofessional at Starkville High School, it's a chance to pass on some sports wisdom to Margaret Ann.
"(I tell her) to give it 110 percent," Cyndi said. "That's the main thing, is to stay focused and give it your all. I think that goes for any kid."
It's the same message Cyndi said she hopes she gets across to student athletes who play tennis at Starkville High School and softball at Mississippi State University, where she's co-president of the softball booster club.
And those aren't even her full-time jobs.
Cyndi works as a designer for Hood Industries, a wood manufacturing and distribution firm based in Hattiesburg. That takes her out of Starkville, where she and her husband Shawn have lived for several years, from Jackson to Memphis, Tennessee -- wherever her firm is working on a project, though it stays primarily in the South. Cyndi is usually out of town three or four days a week.
That leaves the rest of the week for helping coach tennis and the weekends for softball, she said.
"It's mainly a lot of preparation, being very scheduled and prepared," she said. "Know your jobs on both ends and (be) able to switch if you need to."
They even overlap sometimes, she added. This past year when the high school kids had tennis matches in Jackson, she tried to make sure she was already there for work. Mostly though, she said it's nice to be able to switch skill sets, going from interior design to athletics whenever it's required.
"You just have to make it work so you get to do something that you love," she said. "... It's good for me. It's a good change in scenery and gets back to athletics, gives your brain a break from work."
Cyndi said she has fun working with the softball players at MSU -- "(they're) very driven athletes and they're really structured. It's nice to be around the really competitive kids" -- and loves being able to coach the high school students.
"There are a lot of instances in matches where I get to coach them ... where you have to actually make them stop and look at the game as a whole in a different way and deduct and reason on how they need to apply themselves to that situation," she said. "And that is always something we try to teach them about life, that that's the way they're going to go into work and college, to always stand back at look at the situation as a whole and look how to attack it and figure out how to make it work best for you. And that happens in every match."
She said she wants them to learn the same things she wants Margaret Ann to learn -- to give it more than 100 percent, work hard and have fun.
She said the kids had a successful season this year, though they didn't make it all the way to state playoffs.
"Any time our kids win is a great moment," she said. "The kids are always excited and they've learned something about tennis. They've learned how to be competitive and win in (certain) situations. Losing is never fun, but I think they learn through that. But I just like it when our kids win."
As for Margaret Ann: "She has fun watching. She's ready to play," Cyndi said. "It's hard for her to watch. ... We're looking forward to the summer and making her a better player and going through try-outs."
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