ORLANDO, Fla. -- On the court, club tennis is all about competing hard, having fun and making lifelong friends. Away from the baseline, the emphasis is on giving back to the community and making an impact in the lives of those less fortunate.
Almost every team competing at the 2018 Tennis On Campus National Championship in Orlando this week has a story to tell about how its members serve others.
Fittingly, the most popular community initiatives see hundreds of co-ed club players donating their time teaching youngsters or children with disabilities to play tennis.
Notre Dame’s players volunteer with Buddy Up Tennis, an organization that gives tennis classes to individuals with Down syndrome, while the club tennis team at the University of Wisconsin – Madison hosts a free local youth program that benefits more than 150 underprivileged youngsters.
“Not only do the athletes learn to play tennis, but they also improve their athletic, social and emotional development with one-on-one attention from their Buddies,” Notre Dame club tennis president Daniel Vivas said. “It’s great to give back to the community that has given us so much, [and] we are able to help the best way possible by teaching tennis.”
At the University of Pennsylvania, the team members take part in a high school tennis day in partnership with USTA Middle States, where club members and high schoolers from around the community come together to play tennis. And at the University of Florida, players volunteer each week to teach underprivileged children in the Gainesville area through a program called Aces in Motion.
At Rutgers University, the club tennis members teach tennis to children from nearby New Brunswick, N.J., while in Minnesota, the Golden Gophers volunteer at InnerCity Tennis, a program where children have the opportunity to be introduced to tennis and other sports for free.
Said University of Minnesota club tennis president Laura Cattaneo: “We enjoy spreading our love for tennis throughout the community and have found volunteering at InnerCity Tennis to be a very rewarding experience.”
Away from the court, club tennis members across the country help in a variety of different ways.
At Northeastern University, from November to March, the club tennis team sends five people to volunteer every Friday night at Volley Against Violence in Dorchester, Mass.
“The Boston Police Department Tennis Program invites children who are considered ‘at-risk’ and teaches them life lessons through the wonderful game of tennis,” Northeastern club tennis president Julia Hostetter said.
The Northeastern club team also hosts an annual doubles tournament called Midnight Madness and invites teams from Bryant, Tufts, the University of Vermont, the University of Rhode Island, Harvard, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Connecticut to play tennis all night long to raise money.
This year, Northeastern University’s club team has raised more than $3,000, which was split between the Boston Police Department Tennis Program and the Jester and Pharley Phund, which aids children with cancer and is in honor of a former club member who passed away from cancer.
Examples of other philanthropic activities by club teams represented at the 2018 Tennis On Campus National Championship include the Vanderbilt team, which partners with Mentor TENNISsee, a group that brings at-risk youth from a local charter school to Vanderbilt's campus to show them the benefits of living a healthy, studious lifestyle, and Iowa State’s club, which routinely donates used balls to hospitals and volunteers at various community events around Des Moines.
Elsewhere, the North Carolina State University club works with College Mentors for Kids, Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics, while the Washington University team helps out with Campus Kitchen, an on-campus group that collects donated food and cooks meals for homeless shelters in the St. Louis area, and volunteers as ballpersons for local wheelchair tennis tournaments.