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Tennis On Campus Thrives At UC - Davis

This feature article originally appeard in print, in the October 2008 issue of the NorCal Call in Inside Tennis and was penned by volunteer writer, Marc Friedland.

Jimmy Liang Headshot (300)
Jimmy Liang first revived the University
of California - Davis Club Tennis Team,
and then took it to the next level.
Graduating from high school and beginning college is one of life's greatest rites of passage, and the USTA wants to make sure tennis doesn't get left behind.

USTA NorCal's Tennis On Campus program supports campus-based recreational tennis clubs in many ways, including serving up stipends to top sectional finishers from the USTA Campus Championship - Northern California each November at Stanford.  There's no better example of a deserving beneficiary than the University of California - Davis Tennis Club - deserving in terms of its performance at the section’s Campus Championship, but perhaps even more so for the hard work and perseverance of team founder, Jimmy Liang, in organizing, managing and growing the club.

The USTA estimates that only about 5% of competitive high school players participate in inter-collegiate tennis on college varsity teams.  What happens to the other 95%?  Without organizations like the UC Davis Tennis Club, tennis runs the risk of becoming a memory instead of an activity, or better yet, a lifestyle.

Up to a point, Jimmy's story is typical of many high school players moving on to college.  A former junior player, Jimmy tried out for the UC Davis varsity team but didn't make it.  Like other talented players who don't play varsity tennis while attending college, Jimmy missed the competitive aspect of the game.  But this is where Jimmy's story differs from hundreds of thousands of others in his position: He did something about it, for himself, and for others.

In 2006, the current undergraduate studying Computer Science and Engineering set off on a campaign to develop a competitive club that would play matches against other regional university clubs.  At the same time, UC Davis student Chris Fortenbach was building a large-scale recreation-based tennis club on campus.  Seeing one another's flyers Jimmy and Chris made contact.  After a good-natured, weeks-long debate over the merits of a competitive versus a recreational club, the two compromised.  The UC Davis Tennis Club was created with the bi-faceted mission to support recreational tennis for hundreds of members, and to support competitive tennis for a small group of advanced players.

“The mix of recreational and competitive players makes this an inclusive club,” Jimmy points out, “not an exclusive club.”  Jimmy is quick to point out that this is not UC Davis’ first tennis club.  "I always give a lot of credit to Mark Otten, a former student who started the school's original club in 1999," says Jimmy.  When Mark graduated in 2003, lack of new leadership resulted in that club's demise.  That underscores the importance of involving others in a club's leadership, and is testament to Jimmy's success in organizing and managing the current club.  (Co-founder Chris Fortenbach, who was also instrumental in developing the club, has graduated, but remains an officer).  In addition to building out the organization and driving membership, Jimmy worked to gain the school’s approval and financial support through the Department of Campus Recreation.

Hilary Somers, USTA NorCal’s Collegiate Coordinator, says that Jimmy stands out from many students she encounters who want to develop a club at their school.  "A lot of students have trouble remaining dedicated over time. But with Jimmy, its been full force forward the entire time. He's continued to advance the club in membership numbers, professionalism and the quality of their programs.”  Hilary adds that Jimmy is also committed to helping other schools launch successful clubs through his involvement with USTA NorCal’s Collegiate Tennis Committee.

Today the UC Davis Tennis Club has more than 200 members, with twenty of those members on competitive traveling teams.  The club provides recreational hit-arounds on Fridays throughout the year, practices, social events, and intra-club tournaments.  It also has also hosted two regional tournaments on campus, with another scheduled for this November.

UC Davis Team (400)
The UC - Davis Club Tennis Team finished 14th out of 64 teams at the 2008 USTA
National Campus Championship at the Cary Tennis Park in Cary, North Carolina.
The UC Davis Tennis Club has placed well enough in the USTA NorCal Campus Championship to advance to the 64-team USTA National Campus Championship in Cary, North Carolina the past two years.  To help defray travel costs USTA NorCal awarded the club a $1000 stipend in both 2006 and 2007.  At the national championship, UC Davis won the Bronze bracket (the third best bracket out of four brackets) in 2006, and finished in 14th place in the Gold Bracket (the best bracket) in 2007.

"USTA NorCal has been a tremendous help in supporting our club," says Jimmy.  "In addition to the stipends, Hilary has been very helpful with just about anything we need."


Learn more about the UC Davis club at www.freewebs.com/ucdtennis.


Each year, USTA NorCal supports local community-based tennis programs by providing grants, sponsorships and stipends.  Visit www.norcal.usta.com/grants for more info.

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