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Lamar's Defrancis growing the sport at every level in Texas
By Ashley Marshall
For Zachary Defrancis, being involved in tennis means more than just playing at the college level.
A senior at Lamar University, Defrancis is committed to growing the game at every level. He’s in his third year as captain of the Cardinals club tennis team, he’s a board member on his local Community Tennis Association and he’s formed and captained a pair of teams in USTA League competitions since 2014.
“Tennis is doing well in Beaumont (Texas) and I want to see it doing better and better each year, and I’m glad to be a part of it,” Defrancis, a history major, said. “On my busiest weeks for tennis, I’m definitely devoting close to 20 hours.
“I love the sport and I just want to help it out, especially in our area. I want to make sure that tennis in our area of southeast Texas thrives, because it hasn’t always. I want to make sure that it stays and that our community can see the value in it and continue playing. That’s why I devote so much of my time to it.”
Defrancis joined the club team his freshman year and took it upon himself to help resurrect the program. The club lacked members, rarely played in competitions and never traveled to tournaments, but he knew there was an opportunity to do great things with the team.
The Port Arthur, Texas, native got his team to start playing in Tennis On Campus events, and in the spring of his sophomore year, he helped the club was ranked in the top half of all Texas schools. In both 2015 and 2016, the USTA Texas Section sent Lamar to the Tennis On Campus National Championships as its club of the year. This spring, Lamar finished 14th of 58 teams in its section, its highest-ever placing.
“Ever since high school, tennis has been something I have enjoyed,” he said. “For someone like me, I felt like tennis really gave me the best opportunity to really compete to my fullest against others. That’s why we teach a lot of beginners and why we have a practice once a week for beginners to come out and learn the game. We try to cover all our bases because that’s one of the things a tennis club is supposed to do – not only improve on the court, but also be there for the community.”
Defrancis plays about eight hours of tennis each week between his club team and his two USTA League teams – an 18-and-over 3.5 league and an 18-and-over 7.0 combo league. He’s also got his club team players participating in leagues. All three of the women on Lamar’s travel team play in a 4.0 league and five of the men are in either a 3.5 or 4.5 adult league.
In addition, Defrancis is committed to growing participation in his Beaumont community.
“We work to increase the number of tennis players in our part of southeast Texas and put on different events,” said Defrancis, who was approached by a USTA league coordinator and Lamar’s varsity women’s coach to run for a position on the board of the Southeast Texas Community Tennis Assoication because they had seen how involved he was with the tennis club. “For the past four years at Lamar, we’ve been out in the community volunteering and out on the courts practicing as much as we can. We wanted to get as good as we can on the courts and help out as much as we can in the community.”
Defrancis will graduate next month, but he’s determined to say as involved as possible by working toward his teaching certification so he can coach tennis at high schools or middle schools before he returns to grad school to earn a more specialized history degree.
“I’d like to see the youngest generation in our area just jump into tennis, and I’m hoping our community will see that,” he said. “We have a lot of kids, especially in Beaumont, who are more economically disadvantaged, and I feel like tennis could really be a positive part of their life. I know there are pockets in southeast Texas where if kids are shown tennis, they will really love it and hopefully grow this lifetime love for it.”
For a full recap of the Tennis On Campus National Championship, click here.