Friday, July 28, 2017

Playing Collegiate Club Tennis

Kristianne Bontempo with Gretchen Shisler | Towpath Tennis Contributor

While gearing up for classes for your very first (or returning) semester at your chosen university, many of you are also deciding on whether to get involved in one of the many organizations offered on campus and wondering what exactly they entail. Back when I was a freshman at Ohio University, among the half dozen other club activities I was interested in joining, one of them happened to be club tennis. So a few things: 

1) Ohio University does not have a Varsity team.
2) Even if they did have a Varsity team, I wasn't sure I wanted to commit full-time.
3) I might not make the Varsity team.

Obviously all good reasons why I should aim to play club tennis!

As naive as I was thinking I easily had a shot at walking on a club tennis team, little did I know that was definitely NOT the case. Another thing, joining any club is a commitment not a 'come as you please' activity. Long story short, playing club tennis wasn't in the cards for me. However, I still always wondered how everything worked: Do you have to travel? Is it co-ed? Do you play just a season like in high school? How often are practices? Now that I've had the opportunity to talk to somebody with first hand experience on playing collegiate club tennis, I can finally educate myself along with others who are debating on giving it a go!

Gretchen is going into her junior year at Ohio State, and on top of majoring in Marketing and minoring in Fashion Retail, she plays for her school's club Gray (B) tennis team. She played in high school but wanted to continue her experience after learning about the club tennis team during her summer orientation. Trying out on her own was intimidating, but now she can't imagine life on campus without tennis. Some clubs may abide by different procedures but for the most part this is what playing on a club team is generally like: 
Gretchen (far right) plays for OSU's Gray team.

  • Most teams have tryouts in the fall. Many schools have more than one club team depending on how many tryout with varying levels or teams that travel while others don't. Previous members may even have to tryout every year.
  • Members pay dues (generally most clubs do for one reason or another). Dues will typically cover travel costs as well as uniforms. 
  • You are still playing competitive levels of tennis without the commitment of playing Varsity  (NCAA) college tennis. (ie. OSU Club tennis practices 2x/week, tournaments aren’t every weekend and not every player goes to every tournament. Varsity tennis plays and trains nearly everyday and usually has a busy tournament/match schedule during the fall/spring seasons.)
  • Great option for players who want to play on a semi-regular basis, without sacrificing other social activities on campus (Gretchen is also a member of a business fraternity and works part-time).
  • Teams are co-ed.
  • Many universities require a minimum GPA and/or minimum credit hours to be an active club member.
  • Teams are active in fund-raising events as well as giving back to their communities, such as volunteering to teach tennis lessons.
  • Teams are invited to tournaments around the country by other teams’ captains or by the coordinator for USTA Tennis on campus. Normally, tournaments only last one weekend.
  • Matches include (in this order):
                         -One Women’s Doubles
                         -One Men’s Doubles
                         -One Women’s Singles
                                           -One Men’s Singles
                         -One Mixed Doubles
  • Each match consists of one set and teams win based on cumulative games, not sets won. (ie. The scorecard could say 30-17 instead of 5-0, etc.). So even if your team is down before the mixed doubles match, they can still tie up the game score forcing a super tiebreaker to determine the winner.
  • Matches are no-ad scoring. The receiving team chooses which side will return at 40-40; for mixed doubles, the receiver of the deuce serve is the player of the same gender.
  • Substitutions: A team can at any point substitute a player (same gender) into a set. Once a player is replaced, they cannot return in that set. If a substitution occurs in doubles, the remaining player cannot change the side on which he/she receives or the service order. Substitutions are allowed in overtime if a player has not already played in mixed doubles. 
  • You will make friends! Not only will you be spending each week with your team, but many teams do social events together OFF the courts as well. Your team becomes like family.
When you hear somebody say, "My college years were the best time of my life," I doubt they're only referring to their coursework. When you're new to campus or just looking for something to do on your downtime, joining an organization like club tennis with others that share the same interest is really the best way to enrich your social life on campus while also staying fit (hello food court)!

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