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On a Saturday afternoon last spring, I got a call from my fellow team mate about a last minute tennis meeting I had just missed.
“You’re not going to believe it, Jenni,” she said, “Tennis at Emmanuel is done. They’re paving the tennis courts over into a parking lot, and we’re not going to have a team anymore.”
Prior to last spring, Emmanuel Women’s Tennis practiced and hosted their home matches at The Winsor School, conveniently across the street from campus. When these courts were paved over, Emmanuel felt they could no longer offer a quality program to their athletes.
In the official announcement last April, Athletic Director Pam Roecker wrote, “The daily need to transport student-athletes to each practice and competition facility, the challenge of gaining firm commitments regarding court time from alternate venues, our focus on student-athletes’ academic standing as related to missing class,” were all reasons for cancelling the program.
According to Dr. Rissmeyer, Vice President of Student Affairs, “The limitation of a city school is that you don’t have an abundance of land.”
Prospective students are drawn to Emmanuel because of its location in a city, which creates opportunities for internships and making connections. What students and recruits find when they arrive, are scattered sports facilities making it inconvenient for them to support student athletes.
Being able to play tennis at Emmanuel was a deciding factor for Sophomore Rachel Smith. Now that the team is cancelled, she is in the process of transferring to Emerson.
Smith said, “If Emmanuel hadn’t offered me a spot on the tennis team, I probably would have ended up at Emerson in the first place and not have to go through all of this transferring trouble. If there is no team for me to play for and I, wanting to go into film and media studies, do not have my intended major then there is really no other reason for me to stay at Emmanuel.”
The news of the program being cancelled came as a shock to members of the tennis team. They were told weeks before school was ending for the year and were already anticipating a season in the fall. They were told after they had registered early courses for the Fall Semester, accommodating their schedules with late tennis practices. Recruits, who had visited Emmanuel throughout the year and met with the players and coaches, were informed that there would be no team. The biggest shock came to Head Coach Robert Miller, who coached the Emmanuel Women’s Tennis Team for 14 straight seasons. He found out only one hour before the team was told. With no notice at all that the team might be cancelled, Coach Miller had no time to look for another coaching position.
The Women’s Tennis team was the winner of the President’s Cup three years in a row, an award given to the team with the highest average GPA. In 2012 they maintained an average GPA of 3.7. They made it to the semifinals of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference the last two years, finishing overall in third place after rivals Simmons and Emerson.
Other schools in the area have managed to figure it out their space restrictions. Simmons College, who also used the tennis courts at The Winsor School, commutes to courts in Brighton. Suffolk University, another school with limited space in the city, plays at Buckingham, Brigham and Nichols High School in Cambridge. Emerson College plays outside of the city in multiple locations at Weymouth Club, Winchester Tennis Club and Victory Field in Watertown. All of these schools have adapted to their surroundings, working around transportation obstacles that Emmanuel could not.
Many former members of the tennis team believe that one alternative to cancelling the program was to try it for one more year with the new changes. After this test year, if the program was as burdensome to the players as expected, then the decision could be made. However, the Administration believes that the year would have proved what they already knew. Transporting the players to courts away from campus would be too inconvenient and not worth it. The Administration is confident in their decision.
“I miss the student athletes the most,” says Head Coach Robert Miller. “We have had wonderful women on the tennis team the past few years, and I miss seeing them and helping them. I feel badly for them. College tennis was a positive experience I am sure for most, if not all of them, and now they cannot have that at Emmanuel ever again.”