The U of C tennis club.
courtesy Patrick Thomas

U of C tennis club courts success

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Twenty years ago, the University of Calgary tennis team fared well against the best talent in the nation. Established in 1989, the team was a tennis club to be feared, with both the men and the women racking up western championship titles. The Dinos also proved to be tough competition against American teams -- they battled NCAA teams with success.

However, not far from the first few glorious years, the team's story becomes very different.

"They had a larger pool to draw from," said Max Wong, the captain of the U of C tennis team. "Unfortunately we don't have that right now and haven't had that for several years. The team has been in decline for a while."

Wong attributes the decline of interest in the team partially to an overall lack of enthusiasm for tennis, though he says the biggest issue stems from the club's difficulty to compete competitively.

This year, the team only had the opportunity to play against the University of Alberta. Out of 11 matches in two years, the U of C managed to beat their rivals only once. The U of A has a fully funded team, a world-class facility and offers scholarships to players. Since the Dinos are unable to offer any of these, players naturally gravitate to Edmonton.

"We are not able to attract any good players right now because we don't have any incentive to offer them," said Wong. "We have nothing to aspire to beat with a team so vastly superior. I think that makes those on our team unmotivated to try harder because they don't think they are able to attain that."

Wong said the team should not focus on their current struggles. He hopes the team will be scheduled against teams of equal competition, increasing the team's morale, like the University of British Columbia or the University of Victoria.

The opportunity to persevere, however, is not lost for the team. Wong has one year left to captain the team and hopes to leave behind a positive and motivated group.

"I want there to be a cohesive team left behind," said Wong. "I mean, tennis is an individual sport, but what I noticed when I first came to the team a year ago is that there wasn't really any camaraderie among the team. As the year went by, I noticed a shift and some of us became closer and that really helped out the team."

In 2011, the tennis team set up the Dinos Tennis Society with the goal of raising money to pay for court time, coaching and other expenses. The club will also be an opportunity for gaining exposure for the team and attracting players who might not know the team exists. The team consists of 16 players, usually eight females and eight males, and practices three times a week in south Calgary.

Recruiting has been another difficulty for the tennis club. Rather than actively recruiting, most players currently on the team have asked to join.

"Back in the day, people who where involved used to be active in the community and come on campus and do tryouts," said Patrick Thomas, the team's manager. "We have to find out the easiest way to reach out to tennis players."

Despite many drawbacks, with fundraising and aspirations of substantial competition, Thomas said the team's future looks bright.

For Wong, tennis is an outlet. He hopes that in a school with over 30,000 students, more will step up with the same love of the sport.

"Tennis is kind of my release from school, it's something I can do to feel rejuvenated and it's a healthy balance," said Wong.