The Pitt Club Tennis team rallied together this year to save its season after budget reductions threatened to cut it short.
Despite its funding concerns, the team finished 13th in the gold bracket at the United States Tennis Association 2015 Fall Invitational, then came in 28th at nationals this month — a competition that over 700 teams attempted to qualify for.
When Pitt’s Student Government Board passed Bill 025 at the end of 2014, it altered the way SGB allocated funds to club sports teams. As a result, the club tennis team had to amp up its fundraising efforts.
Previously, club sports requested a certain amount from SGB, which the Board would then approve in full, in part or deny completely. This year, club tennis got $7,000 from SGB compared to $11,000 last year.
In the beginning of the fall semester, club members were concerned that they would not get the funding needed to travel to tournaments. The changes to the club sports budget policy required the team to work together more often and orchestrate social events to raise funds.
The team hosted fundraisers at Chipotle and Five Guys in the fall, a dodgeball tournament in February, and a crowdfunding campaign, raising $10,000 in addition to the $7,000 from SGB. These efforts made it possible to bring non-participating club members to nationals and even donate to families in need over the holidays.
Co-Vice President Andrew Friedman, a junior chemistry major, was surprised by some donors to the crowdfund campaign — mostly because he had no idea who they were.
“That means that other people who aren’t affiliated with our program still wanted to take initiative and help our team out,” Friedman said.
In addition to 30 individuals — comprised of friends, family and generous strangers — both the Allegheny Mountain District of the USTA and the Pittsburgh Tennis League donated to the team.
The team received an unprecedented $4,400 in crowdfunding donations.
“It’s been really cool seeing the neighboring tennis community help us out this year,” Co-Vice President Chelsea Carter said.
The funds this year went towards transportation, both locally and for away tournaments like the ones in Bethany Beach, Delaware; Hilton Head, South Carolina and Princeton, New Jersey. Funding also helped with entry fees for tournaments as well as maintenance for the team’s indoor practice courts.
Co-President Brian Rubin approached this season differently than past leaders, and his accomplishments attracted recognition from the USTA.
The USTA gave Rubin, a senior marketing and supply chain management major, the National Tennis on Campus Leader award for his outstanding role in both fundraising and community involvement. He received the award, which leaders from all 700 clubs in the USTA were eligible for, at the conclusion of nationals in Cary, North Carolina.
Carter, a junior industrial engineering major, explained why Rubin’s leadership warranted the honor. Instead of discussing the team’s on-court performance, she cited Rubin’s work with the local community.
“[Rubin was] the one that reached out to do the clinics for kids in the local area that improved their skills, and we also donated money to families this Christmas, and this was the first year that [we]did that,” Carter said.
A lack of courts in Oakland necessitates that members carpool 20 minutes to the practice courts in Monroeville to practice a minimum of twice a week in two-hour sessions. The team also traveled together to tournaments further away.
“Honestly, the best bonding experiences are from the long car rides,” Rubin said. “When you’re stuck with people for eight to nine hours at a time, that’s when the freshmen on the team actually get a chance to know everybody. You get to sing songs together, do homework together, complain about things together. It’s how people get connected.”
This year’s sizeable funds — $17,000 from fundraisers and crowdfunding — also allowed for non-participating players to travel with the team to support them on the road.
Co-president Aaron Miller, a graduate student pursuing a masters in accounting, said this has been crucial to the team’s success.
“We had thirteen people at nationals cheering us on. Other teams only have four or five. It’s a huge advantage,” Miller said.
Friedman, who becomes co-president with Carter next year, plans on expanding the options for those members in the stands, who want to play tennis next semester but can’t take part in the competitions.
“For everyone who’s not competitive enough to make the team, we’re going to try to start an intramural team in the next year or two for kids who just want to get out and play without the pressures of competition,” Friedman said.
To Carter, explaining why the team has done well enough to consider expanding is simple.
“Because of good players and good people,” Carter said.