What started out as a team for men without a varsity program is growing into an inclusive co-ed team that prides itself on member participation – but with a competitive edge.
SVSU’s co-ed club tennis team was formed four years ago and had only male members until this year.
“They started a guy’s team because they don’t have a varsity team here,” captain Chris Berger said. “Then we got information from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) that they had a co-ed league, so we joined that this year.”
The team now consists of five female athletes and nine male athletes that compete regularly in matches and tournaments both indoors and outdoors. Nearing the end of its season, the team has competed in eight matches and two tournaments, both in Wisconsin.
SVSU placed second in the bronze division at regionals this year, competing against teams in and around Michigan, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
Berger said the team usually takes six members to the bigger tournaments. Members compete in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and a mixed doubles match.
“The mixed doubles match really matters because every single game counts for scoring,” Berger said. “They really push for the co-ed doubles and try to get everyone involved.”
Getting everyone involved is one of the priorities of the team, which uses the smaller matches throughout the season to give everyone playing time.
“Pretty much everyone gets to play because we only take 15 people,” Berger said. “For regionals, we did tryouts. We were there to win, whereas in the other matches, we’re there to play and have fun, which is kind of the general consensus of all the teams.”
Although the team stresses participation, the level of competition among members of the team varies with the player.
“We kind of let the players determine what they want to do,” Berger said.
“I’m a really competitive person, so I like to work as hard as I can to be the best I can and try to push my other teammates,” said sophomore Nick Peters. “I know it’s not varsity. It’s kind of in between with me.”
Sophomore Zuri Alexander said that she plans to use the experience she’s gained playing for the club team to try out for the women’s varsity team in the fall.
“I think it’s great practice for me so that next year I’ll hopefully be able to play on the varsity team,” she said. “There are a lot of good teams that come out to play.”
Both players said that they played tennis in high school and wanted to continue competing when they came to SVSU.
“I started playing tennis my freshman year of high school,” Peters said. “My friend got me into it and I ended up loving it, taking lessons all four years. I knew I wanted to play in college if I could at all.
“Just to be able to play competitively still, I love that.”
Alexander said that playing for the team has been an important part of her development as a player.
“I started playing during my junior year of high school, and I was awful,” she said. “I practiced a lot, and I’ve been playing a lot these last couple of years. We get to travel a lot, and it’s just been a good experience.”
Berger said that the main way the team is able to afford travel fees is through dues paid by its members.
“We only did $50 per person for the whole year, which is really cheap compared to what most schools do,” he said. “Next year it will probably go up a little bit, just because we want to do more. We want to travel.”
In addition to the competitive benefits of being able to travel and tournaments, Peters said that being able to take long trips with the team has created a bond between teammates and competitors throughout the region.
“I’ve met a lot of cool people on this team, people I can see me being friends with for a long time,” he said.