Tennis club hopes to become university affiliated

Audrey Roberson

The WT Tennis Club poses in front of Old Main. The club hopes to become a university-affiliated team in the near future.
The WT Tennis Club poses in front of Old Main. The club hopes to become a university-affiliated team in the near future.

The Athletic Department will be adding a new university-affiliated team for the 2017-2018 academic year. The Tennis Club is one of the contending choices. WT Athletic Director Michael McBroom said the decision will be based on competitive landscape, funding for equipment and scouting possibilities.

“What I’d like to see is the tennis club turn into a team, it would be a great opportunity for current and future WT students,” Michael Johnson, Tennis President, said.

WT once had a tennis team, playing at the Division II level but it was dropped by the Athletic Department. Now the tennis functions as a club sanctioned by the Recreational Sports Program. Without support from the Athletic Department, funding, recruitment, promotion, and training are in the club’s hands.

“The team downsized when it became a club from fourteen courts to two,” Johnson said. “We practice at the Buffalo Sports Park which is open to the public. Sometimes I have to kick people out so we can practice. The money we get from Rec Sports is just enough for traveling expenses. It’s not enough to rent out any courts.”

The club consists of twenty players who compete in tournaments with other collegiate teams. They also scrimmage against high school students from Canyon and Dumas to give the students playing experience and to promote the club.

“The Panhandle has a lot of good players and high school players search for scholarship opportunities when choosing a college,” Johnson said. “If WT had a tennis team, we could give scholarships and more students would choose WT.”

Johnson reaches out to prospective students by attending New Student Orientation, Transfer Student Orientation and Buff Branding to increase student awareness of the club. Since the Athletic Department doesn’t scout for new members, it is part of Johnson’s job.

“As president, I think it’s important that people know about the club and know that the opportunity to play exists at WT,” Johnson said. “Many times, the club will be practicing and people will tell me that they didn’t even know there was a tennis club.”

Dr. Vanessa Fiaud, Assistant Professor of Sports and Exercise Science, said that Johnson has made great strides in getting new members to join. The club has gained thirteen members in a year and Fiaud said it’s because of exposure.

“I used word of mouth which is easy as an advisor,” Fiaud said. “My students are very sports-oriented, so I encourage them to join the tennis club. But it isn’t just me; the club promotes itself by Facebook, Twitter and even t-shirts.”

Fiaud said that tennis is a lifetime sport and all students and faculty are welcome to join the club, even if they haven’t touched a racquet.

“The purpose of the club is to help people enjoy tennis that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to,” Fiaud said. “Players can play without obligation to practice or skip classes for tournaments.”

Since the tennis club doesn’t have to follow the regulations of the Athletic Department or the USTA, it doesn’t have to comply with training standards. This creates a more-player oriented experience for club members and allows for a variety of people at different playing levels.

“The Athletic Club is about serving the players and what they want,” Fiaud said. “The club is for the players, by the players and ran by the players.”

The club practices at the courts in Buffalo Sports Park from 8:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Johnson says anyone can come by.

“There is a type of practice for everyone,” Johnson said. “There are no limitations to what someone can work on from those who are just beginning to more advanced. Even I have things I need to improve on. The first step is coming to the courts.”

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