For the 42 girls on the Michigan women’s club tennis team, it is the friendships and unity formed off the tennis court that has allowed their program to excel.
Most teams hire coaches to take on the responsibility of teaching teamwork and technical skills. But lacking a coach, the team has successfully managed to take on the position as a collective unit.
Weeks before the beginning of school, the seniors wrote e-mails to re-energize the team for the upcoming year. During the season, the team organized numerous events to create tight bonds. The squad played its annual game of whirly ball, attended concerts and a Tigers game and played intramural football as a team.
So far this season, the social aspects of the team have had a positive influence. The team is ranked No. 1 in its league, and the girls have aspirations of maintaining that position.
For many of the incoming freshman, these activities have been a great opportunity to meet new people.
“Not knowing many people at first, the club tennis team has helped broaden my horizon and form a strong group of friends,” freshman Jenna Mattefs said.
As a result of all the social events, the eagerness to participate in matches has steadily increased.
“Since matches are optional, no one is required to play every match,” Julie Van Helden said. “As soon as we started these social events, the team has been more eager to participate in matches. Last year, we had to beg people to play. But this year, we have to turn people away because we are too full.”
Team unity is also stressed through the structure of practices. Instead of playing singles matches, the team has started to center around doubles.
“Doubles allow the team to have more fun and not be in such an intense atmosphere,” senior Courtney Istre said. “It focuses more on communication and team work, which helps bring the team closer. Also, doubles allow players not to be so uptight and play for the love of the sport.”
In order to continue the success of the team, fundraising is essential. Istre, the head of fundraising, has planned many profitable events. During welcome week, the team was paid to help with freshman convocation. It holds ongoing bottle drives and, during the football season, asks for donations before games. Each player also pays $30 monthly dues.