In a school where varsity athletic programs rarely receive attention, it comes as no surprise that many athletic clubs have low levels of participation as well.
In spite of this fact, one club—the tennis club—is undergoing a restructuring process so that it can become more widely recognized and, more importantly, have success at the tournament level.
Contrary to popular belief, the tennis club does not only participate in intra-school activities. While there are practices every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, the club’s goal is to build a successful squad in those practices in preparation for tournaments outside the U of C.
Unfortunately, while there are upwards of 20 people at practices, only about five of them are actively involved in tournaments. In the past, the administrators of the club allowed anybody interested to participate in tournaments. But most members would drop out, forcing students like second-year James Estaver to play over eight matches at a given tournament.
“It was hard to get people to play at tournaments previously because people came on a volunteer basis,” Estaver said. “So people dropped out at the last minute.”
This was the case at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tournament fall quarter, where only five members participated from the U of C. The large number of Chicago dropouts created problems off the court as well, as the club was forced to pay the costs for overbooked hotel rooms.
On top of that, with Estaver being the only male participating, Chicago had to forfeit all men’s doubles matches and ended up with only one win in the entire tournament.
Tournament after tournament, Chicago continued to have stagnant participation.
To make matters worse, because there is already a varsity tennis team, the tennis club is not an officially recognized sports club. Therefore, it is unable to receive annual funds from the pool of money that is designated for sports clubs. Instead, the group has to apply for annual allocations through a fund that is available to every RSO at the school.
“We get less funding than we would receive if we were a sports club,” second-year Gaelle Sharma said. “We have a small number of committed members, so we don’t get a lot of money.”
Last year, the tennis club only received funding for indoor tennis courts through annual allocations while every other proposal was denied. However, the club has received funding from the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC).
With a lack of funds and low participation, Estaver and Sharma came up with the idea of having a team within the club.
Members of the team would fundraise together, attend tournaments together, and be more committed as a whole.
While the idea for the team actually originated last year, it was unable to come into fruition.
“They tried to do it last year, but there was no incentive to actually be on the team,” Estaver said.
Team members now have the added incentive of possibly getting uniforms and priority to all tournaments. While all team members have to pay $30 every quarter, Sharma said that the 15 people that have shown interest thus far are very receptive to the idea.
To give members added incentive, the tennis club is aggressively pursuing funds outside of campus. Already, the Maroons have raised $5,500 for traveling through Zipcar. They have also applied for a grant through the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) Tennis on Campus program.
The Tennis on Campus program has also led to a greater number of tournaments. This school year, the Maroons have been actively involved in five team tournaments. They will attend a new tournament at Northwestern this May and will host their own tournament later in the year.
Sharma said that a lot of the credit for the improved organization of the club has to go to current club president, fourth-year Elizabeth Beitler.
“Elizabeth is the one that has the spirit,” Sharma said. “She makes everyone feel motivated.”
The club looks toward having more active members and thriving in the future.
“[Currently] people lose interest throughout the year,” Sharma said. “Hopefully we can turn that around and have a different perspective on the tennis club by being more serious.”
Students interested in joining the tennis club should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.