Northeastern University was awarded USTA Tennis on Campus Club of the Year for 2019. We will be representing New England at Nationals in Arizona. Below is the essay that we submitted as one element in the application process that we really believe sealed the deal for us.
Northeastern Club Tennis was founded in 2005, consisting of 20 members. It gradually expanded to 50 members, with Fall 2018 yielding the greatest expansion yet to 60 members. The addition of brand new courts on campus at Carter Field Playground presented an opportunity to grow the team with members coming from 15+ states and 10+ countries. This semester, the men’s and women’s teams saw their highest number of participants, approximately 100 and 70 students respectively, and most competitive level of players trying out for Fall 2018. The Northeastern team utilized flyers, social media, summer orientation sessions, and website inquiries to encourage the Northeastern community to join the only tennis program on campus. The team also took over the Northeastern University official Snapchat during Sectionals weekend, after which interest to tryout in Spring 2019 soared.
The Carter Field Playground allowed the team to host more tournaments. The first tournament hosted by Northeastern was for the Jack’s Abby Social Tennis League through USTA TOC New England Coordinator Sarah Rice with the assistance of Northeastern team representatives. Northeastern held tournaments in the fall for the first time ever, hosting URI, Wheaton, and SNHU in a successful round robin WTT format tournament. Hosting tournaments has opened the door to playing with TOC teams outside the Boston area, expanding Northeastern’s TOC relationships.
Practices have been dynamic for the past few years as coordinators change, evolving to a mixture of dead-ball and live-ball drills. The executive board wanted to promote friendly competition and increase effort at practices. Last semester, the team was split into four houses and had each house compete each practice for points. At the end, the house with the most points received gift cards. At our annual town hall meeting, members appreciated the team-oriented competition at practice. A ladder determined by challenge matches designates A and B team members for national TOC travel tournaments. Because the A and B team only comprises 17% of our team, we have recently added one travel tournament per year for members who have never traveled before, boosting morale from top to bottom.
The Northeastern team has also transformed tennis, an individual sport, into a family with strong lifelong friendships. We pride ourselves in being a tight-knit, diverse community of individuals from around the world with a common passion for tennis. The executive board acknowledges the value in strong relationships both on and off court and has prioritized team bonding. The first mandate to strengthen team camaraderie was required tournament attendance in Fall 2018. Even though finding enough tournaments was a challenge, the board believed this helped members focus at practice, and it also showcased the dedication and enthusiasm the new members brought to our team. The next initiative was having various off-court activities to help facilitate a familial sentiment. The activities included a US Open watch party, scary movie night, hiking, Sectionals team dinner, and a paint your own pottery event. In the works for next semester are an indoor rock climbing team building activity, our third annual ski weekend event, and weekly team conditioning sessions. Each activity strengthens our bond, which is transferred to support on the court.
All of these activities come at a cost, so the team hosts two fundraisers each semester. Fundraisers in the past have been through dining options around campus where a portion of the sales will go to the team, raising on average $250 while promoting our team. Next semester, the team is looking to host a Trivia Night, providing the opportunity to both increase team funds and promote off-court bonding.
Giving back to our community through volunteering and fundraising is one of the most significant aspects of our team. It is an honor for us to host our annual Midnight Madness charity tournament where we challenge each participant to raise money for two organizations close to our hearts. The 2018 Midnight Madness tournament was the most successful yet, with more than 100 TOC players attending from 8 teams raising $2000 to split between the Jester & Pharley Phund and the Volley Against Violence program. The Jester & Pharley Phund provides books to children with terminal illness and was recommended to us when we wanted to honor a team member who passed away from brain cancer and was directly impacted by their mission. This tournament would not be possible without generous contributions from Sarah Rice and local businesses, who provide raffle items for the tournament.
The second half of the proceeds from the Midnight Madness tournament is given to Boston Police Department’s Volley Against Violence (VAV) program at Sportsmen’s Tennis Center. For two hours on Fridays, Sportsmen’s hosts at-risk children aged 3-18 to learn how to play tennis as well as instill essential life lessons. The Northeastern team has been sending volunteers to help attain this goal for five years, but Fall 2018 was the first semester that all 60 members were required to attend. The executive board believed that this would help each member establish a personal connection to VAV to encourage them to raise more money for the program while dedicating priceless time to the youth of the Boston community.
Northeastern Club Tennis has developed tremendously since its inception with the utilization of executive board initiatives in conjunction with critical feedback from its members each semester. We learned this year that our definition of success comes not only from on-court outcomes, but from a combination of tournament results and the positive impact each member receives from joining our team. Listening to members' opinions of what they want from their TOC experience has allowed the team to improve both on and off the court through practice, tournaments, activities, volunteering, and fundraising. The team has come a long way but welcomes the opportunity to develop each semester and strives to make the team the best that it can be, which is why I believe that Northeastern University deserves this award to represent USTA TOC New England. We thank you for your consideration and giving us an opportunity to publicize our progress.