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Varsity Tennis treated as club team by athletic department

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Varsity Tennis treated as club team by athletic department
Muhlenberg Men's Tennis finished 6-9 in 2019.

After Muhlenberg’s tennis courts were deemed unplayable for this year, the senior class expressed their frustration

By: Jason Grant  

I have been fortunate to play on tennis courts all around the world. In New Jersey alone, I have played on too many courts to count. I have no problem playing on bad courts. Despite being one of the best high school teams in the state, my courts back then were shitty. Cracks with grass sprouting out of them were abundant. As a tennis player, bad courts are no problem, but no courts at all is unacceptable.

On Tuesday, Mar. 16, a referee from the Centennial Conference determined that the Muhlenberg tennis courts, which have never been kept in great condition, were unplayable for competition. This determination came four days before our first home match, one of only three home matches scheduled all season. Instead of checking the courts in the year prior to this season, they waited until not even one week before our first match. The courts will have to be resurfaced before they can be played on in collegiate competition again, which is an expensive, time-consuming endeavor. As a senior heavy team that has already missed so much time amid the pandemic, it is fair to wonder if we will even have a senior day on our courts at the end of the season.

It is an unspoken truth that at high schools and small universities, certain varsity sports are given preference by athletic departments. Sports such as football, basketball, and soccer are usually taken care of first in terms of access to facilities and the perks of being an athlete. There is some logic behind this. Football generates income for big schools and draws a large interest from most colleges, with rosters of close to 50 kids. Secondary sports such as tennis, track and field, and golf are usually given the facilities that are left over–less glamorous, but serviceable.    

In terms of access to facilities over my four years, the Muhlenberg tennis team has never once been offered a locker room to use. There is no bathroom or port-o-john that is easily accessible near the tennis courts. Seegers Union is on the other side of campus. Our “bathroom” is located in the blind spot between the storage sheds next to the courts.

There has been inarguable laziness on the part of the athletic department in regards to the tennis team over these four years. I understand Muhlenberg is not a tennis powerhouse, but playable courts and a bathroom are not unreasonable requests. At the end of each season, we have met with the athletic department to address the aforementioned issues with little progress. “When there has been communication, I don’t think it has been very genuine from the athletic department. And when we tell them what we want, such as access to facilities or a bathroom, nothing changes,” explained Gavin Meyers ‘21.

Even now, in order to practice safely, we drive ourselves 25 minutes off campus at 9 p.m. to play. It is unclear if we will be reimbursed for our travel expenses, nor have we been offered transportation. This, combined with the news of the tennis courts being deemed unplayable, has caused the frustration to finally boil over. Adam Kronick ‘21 expressed the collective exasperation well. “There is a lack of forward planning, checking the courts four days before our first match. They easily could have checked the courts last fall or after we got sent home in the spring.”

To be clear, I don’t have anything against anyone at the athletic department, and I believe I can say the same for my teammates. In my interactions with them they are always pleasant. My teammates and I are simply frustrated with the system. We have felt as if we have been treated as a second class team. Compared to the other teams in our conference, it feels as if we have been going through it alone. “After the pandemic took away one of our seasons, it is certainly disappointing to learn we may not play on the courts again, and to not play on the courts for the last two years of our college experience,” said Meyers. “In the future, the tennis team needs to communicate better with the coach and the athletic department.”

Despite all of this, the tennis team has sustained steady improvement since my freshman year. It has not been through immense recruiting, as six of the current eight members of the team are seniors. We have held each other accountable, practicing hard and putting in the work. We have had three different coaches over the past four years, missed a season due to COVID, and yet we will hopefully be competitive at the top of the conference this year. We have battled through adversity and showed our commitment. Whatever courts we are subjected to this season, I have no doubt we will fight until the last ball.

With few known recruits for next year and six seniors graduating, it appears the tennis team might not have enough players to send out a full lineup in seasons to come. I am genuinely curious to know if the athletic department is aware of this fact or if they are concerned about it. If they are, they should act fast. Football season is right around the corner.  

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