Club tennis team successful amid financial, space struggle

Alex Kamczyc

Evan Haskins has a problem.

The recreational facility scheduled an event at the same time his Kent State Tennis Club is set to practice on Monday. As a result, they’re only limited to six courts.

This would be no problem for most clubs, but with roughly 60 members, it’s a bit of a tight squeeze.

“It was the first time we had to have two days for tryouts because so many people signed up,” said Haskins, the co-president of the club and a senior exercise science major. “Last year we didn’t even have half of that.”

This is a new issue they’ve encountered since coming off a championship run in a national tournament where they placed 58th out of 64 teams.

All of this and it’s only the second year for the club sport.

The Kent State Tennis Club started with a humble beginning. It was formed in 2014 with only six members, and served primarily as an interest group.

“At first we only took part in one tournament and played friendly matches with schools like Loraine College and Oberlin,” said Bruno Beidacki, a senior journalism major and co-founder of the club. “Which is nice but it wasn’t the level of competition that we really wanted.”

In 2016, the team made its leap from an interest group to student organization. It joined the USTA Midwest Tennis on-campus league, which is home to over 50 other intramural tennis teams from across the nation.

It isn’t an easy league either. Schools like Bowling Green, Michigan State University, Ohio State University and University of Cincinnati all compete against each other to make it to the nationals. Out of all the universities, Kent State’s club is the youngest.

On top of that, during their first year as a recognized organization on campus, five players from the group made it to the league’s national tournament that was held in Orlando, Florida.

“We were very excited when we heard we were going to go,” said Haskins, who wasn’t able to attend the tournament because he had an exam around the time the team went. “It was an amazing experience, we got to meet with the director of the league, there was a 100 plus courts and every match was being live streamed so I was able to watch it after my exam.”

Most teams on campus would have no problem making the trip. A sport that’s recognized as a varsity team on campus means you get financial support from the school and the students that are enrolled. The main focus is how they are going to compete and hopefully win.

But if you’re a club sport, sources are limited even though there is support by Kent State’s recreational services. Teams like the Tennis club often need to figure out how they can fund the trip on their own before they could even begin to discuss a game plan.

Those resources become even more limited when you’re only a student organization and not a club sport.

The team resulted to crowd-funding $1,000 for their trip, with many of the donors being friends and family of the team. They were still $1,000 short of their original goal.

“We’re not even affiliated with Recreational Services yet,” Beidacki said. “Which means that we don’t get any funding from the school. We got funds from the Center for Student Involvement…but it’s not enough to cover any expenses, because you have to pay for gas, hotel rooms and registration fees for the tournaments.”

That was not the only issue the team had to overcome. For example, there are limited places to practice on campus for the club. A number of tennis courts that the team used to practice have recently been torn down to make extra space for parking. There are only two courts left at the university for the team to play on and they can’t use them.

The team has had to resort to a 20 minute drive every Monday to practice at a tennis club called Western Reserve Racquet and Fitness club located in Aurora. It’s a golf club-like facility complete with a tennis store, a bar, several lounges and two massive courts that surround the lounge.

For some, it’s frustrating that there isn’t a place at the university that they can call home. A lot of that has to do with regulations like Title IX, a law instituted in 1972 that prevents an unequal amount of men’s and women’s teams from playing on campus at a time.  

“It’s sad that we don’t have a [varsity] tennis team on campus,” said Mohit Daga, a senior integrated life sciences major and the other co-president of the Tennis Club. “I think, what we’ve done with what we had and making it to nationals and sectionals, we do show a lot of potential here.”

Since making it to the nationals last year there have been a few changes to the organization. For one, they found a coach, which they didn’t have last year.

Aaron Stuetzer is an elite tennis professional that knew the previous leaders of the team and would help whenever he could which lead to him helping out every practice.

“He’s offered so much to the table, I don’t think we’d be where we are now if it weren’t for him,” said Haskins. “I trust his judgement for everything.”

Another big change the club has that they didn’t last year is that they’re now sponsored by Diadem, a tennis company that was formed in 2012 that invented a new string for racquets. The company and the team are about to work together to design their apparel and provide strings for their racquets.

“Thanks to them, we can actually feel as if we are a varsity team on campus,” Haskin said, explaining what it means to have someone outside of the club that believes in him and the team.

On top of that, due to the high numbers of members in the organization the process in which they get funding is changing. The team is also seeking to gain funding through a new program implemented by President Warren that encourages students to live an active lifestyle.

With all the new changes that the team has gone through, they’re ready to take another shot at the nationals.

“We’re representing Kent State,” said Haskins. “We’re going to make sure that we get there no matter what.”

Alex Kamczyc is a features correspondent. Contact him at [email protected].