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TOC Championship Spotlight: Brown University

Brown University Club Tennis Team Spotlight Relay Photo (350) Brown University Club Tennis Team Spotlight Photo (350)

Brown University, located in Providence, Rhode Island has been a part of the Tennis On Campus program since 2005. In the past two years, club leadership and members of the club tennis team have put together countless hours to build their program from just a few members who competed a couple times a year to National Campus Championship contenders with several weekly practices. With over 70 club tennis team participants and two attempts at a NCC title, Brown University attributes their successes to the strong relationships between teammates both on and off the court. Brown University recently spoke to TennisOnCampus.com about what they are looking forward to most at this year's National Campus Championship, and how they overcame a caved-in roof at their indoor tennis facility, and more.  

TOC: What is your team doing to prepare for the upcoming National Campus Championship? 
Funny you should ask! The roof of our indoor tennis facility at Brown actually caved-in from all the snow recently (Astrodome-style)! For a while, we weren't even sure we'd get to practice all semester! But luckily, the roof was repaired faster than expected, and we're back playing (although we're all still a bit rusty; it's been pretty ugly actually). In the coming weeks, we're hoping to get back into a regular practice schedule-- our practices start at 10pm, and sometimes go into the early morning hours if we're determined enough/having enough fun! Fundraising for us has been a year-long endeavor: from an incredibly successful bake sale, to cultivating relationships with local and national sponsors, to a holiday greeting card sent to parents and friends, we've done an amazing job ensuring that we have the capacity to travel and compete. Brown Athletics has also been unbelievably generous this year, which we're extremely grateful for.

TOC: What is your team looking forward to most about attending the National Campus Championship?
The energy and electricity of Nationals is always the most exciting part. That's probably inevitable when you bring together 64 teams from across the country. In general, Tennis on Campus is an amazing outlet for forming bonds and relationships with other teams and finding commonalities with players and people who you would never otherwise get to meet. There are always a few wacky characters in the mix as well! This year, Nationals is special to us since three of our Captains/officers are graduating (Matt Doup '11, Michael Chang '11, Sam Miller '11), so this is their last opportunity to compete. Also, we have a couple Brown Club Tennis alums coming down to support us- Cory Harris 10' and Laura Sammartino 10', both of whom were instrumental in making the team what it is today.

TOC: What are your team goals at this year’s National Campus Championship? Any predictions on your placement or outcome?
Brown Club Tennis’s goals are to build on the success we have had at previous National Campus Championships. Though we are bringing many new faces, we are also bringing a legacy of success. In 2008, we placed 10th, and in 2009 we placed 16th. However, after not qualifying last year, not only are we eager to get back on a winning track, but we're also more appreciative of the incredible opportunity ahead of us. Our focus this year is to place in the top 10, but with the dynamism and unpredictability of the WTT format, who comes out on top is anyone's guess!

TOC: What are some of the things you attribute to the success of your team?
The success of Brown Club Tennis lies both in its passionate student leaders and team solidarity. Each captain and chair in the Brown Club Tennis leadership committee is extremely dedicated to maintaining the team’s competitive, financial, and social well-being. We have weekly match play and drilling, and encourage independent play outside of team practices (via a challenge ladder) . Off the court, we host a variety of social events to promote team bonding, from holiday gatherings to Grand Slam viewing parties to our own internal Davis Cup competitions. Overall, we enjoy being around each other and we play for each other, and this feeling of BCT love has definitely made club tennis an enjoyable, rewarding experience for all.

TOC: What advice do you have for fellow club tennis teams that are striving to qualify for the National Campus Championship?
 Practice does make perfect, but ultimately it is team spirit that helps achieve success. The more unity and (we know it sounds cheesy...) "love" a team has, the more dedication each individual member has for the team. The more unified, cohesive, and proactive the team, the more likely it is to attract top players and gain recognition (and perhaps funding) from its respective university, college, or community. It's really about momentum, which we feel fortunate to have built up over the past 4-5 years. Also, provided that you have access to courts, try to get out there as much as possible (but also try to get to know each other outside of the tennis context too-- it might come in handy when it comes down to that super-tiebreak!). Overall, our advice to a team striving to qualify for Nationals is to build a team bond and with that -- get out there and hit!

TOC: Does your team have any unusual or unique pre-match rituals? Any team superstitions?
We do, strangely! The "tradition" started at Sectionals one year when one of our captains, Elizabeth Vasily, was so sick that she could barely speak, and amidst a slew of disappointing tiebreak losses, managed to squeak out one of the most inspirational club tennis team speeches. Ever since then, she has taken it upon herself to organize a team huddle before every match, and gives her infamous "pep talks", voice or no voice. As much as we would like to pretend that her speeches are quote-worthy, it's definitely not Shakespearean. But, she always manages to get the team focused and remind everyone just how hard we've worked!

TOC: Describe your typical practice schedule or week with your team before a big tournament?
On a normal schedule, the men’s and women’s teams practice both individually twice a week and together once a week. While getting on the court and working on our strokes is what we typically focus on at practice, we have also begun to incorporate a conditioning component, in which our fitness captain organizes and runs cardio and strength training routines. Before big tournaments, we will generally run smaller practices and mix teams up to obtain the best combination of players in their respective slots. These practices mostly focus on match play.

TOC: Are there any teams you are hoping to meet at the National Campus Championship? Any big team rivalries?
While competitiveness makes us stronger players overall, as a team we focus more on improving our own skills and having fun, rather than rivalries between other schools. We always enjoy seeing teams from our area, and have great rivalries (but also great friendships) with both Harvard and Boston College. We've had some battles with both teams over the years, and it would be fun to see how those rivalries continue to play out in Cary. But at the same time we look forward to matching up our games against teams and players that we wouldn't normally get to compete against.

TOC: What has been your team’s favorite Tennis On Campus moment this year?
We hosted a five-school tournament here at Brown in the fall, and it was very successful. We gave out Brown teddy bears as winners trophies, which we thought put a personal stamp on the tournament! It was great to compete against other teams and make contacts for future matches, fundraisers, etc. We hope to be able to put on a similar tournament this spring!

TOC: If you could add one professional player to your team’s roster, who would it be?
There is no consensus among our team on who we would pick; we could definitely all stand to have Novak Djokovic around—his sense of humor and hilarious impersonations would be more than welcome. Maybe even John Isner, since he has a monster serve and knows how to lead a college team to a National Championship!

TOC: What type of community involvement has your team been a part of?
BCT members are united by their mission to serve the surrounding communities, from working with the local middle school tennis players to raising money for cancer research. Our team's community involvement has mainly focused around volunteering at youth tennis programs in Providence. We have helped out with an after-school middle school program that teaches "QuickStart tennis", an initiative that the USTA started to teach young players the fundamentals of tennis. We have also looked into other programs at local high schools, though this endeavor has been more difficult as there is no previously established volunteering program for tennis instruction at these schools. Additionally, our team has participated in Relay for Life, a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. We are currently in the process of organizing a Relay for Life team once again this year, and we are looking forward to raising money for this great cause.

TOC: If your team won the National Campus Championship title, how would you celebrate? Would you take the trophy anywhere interesting?
If we won the National Campus Championship title we would celebrate by hosting a huge "Around The World" tournament, inviting team members, friends, parents, members of the Brown community, and our sponsors/donors. The trophy would obviously take center-stage at this gathering -- it's the best donation bowl we can think of! We would also try to leverage our success and try to enter the professional World Team Tennis League (who wouldn't pay good money to see the National Tennis On Campus Champions, plus we feel that the league could benefit from the addition of the Providence Passingshots).