Stoimenoff: Northwestern should invest more resources in recreational sports

Trevor Stoimenoff, Columnist

Tennis is a sport that so many people enjoy — it is fairly easy to pick up, it’s as competitive as you want it to be and it’s fun to play with friends. So, naturally, club tennis at Northwestern is an extremely popular sport.

As club tennis president, I had the opportunity to set up a booth at the activities fair this year and recruit new members. We had more than 90 people sign up — on the men’s side alone. However, in the back of my mind, I was worried about this turnout. Club tennis is not a high a priority in the sports department, so we get very little time on the tennis court. We also get a restricted number of courts. This severely limits the number of members we are able to accept, forcing us to cut more than half of those who try out. And when these guys get cut from club tennis and still want to continue playing the sport, it seems like there should be some other group they could join where they can continue to play. However, the University’s lack of opportunities in the recreational athletic department and the difficulty of managing the sport clubs that already do exist ruin that possibility.

Club sports may not seem so important to some, but to others, they are an integral aspect of the college experience. The University fails to understand this. While it is important to prioritize and keep everything in order, it is also important as a university to remain focused on inclusivity and diversity of extracurricular programs and, as cliche as it sounds, not to forget about the little guys.

Intramurals are another option that many students consider as an athletic outlet. However, only eight sports are offered as intramurals. There are currently 36  club sports offered. Some of the club sports are understandably not able to be adapted to an intramural format, but the discrepancy between the number of club sports and the number of intramurals is still alarmingly large. Just this year in club tennis alone, we were forced to cut over 40 students. Among every club sport offered, the number of kids who will be cut and have no intramural activity to fall back on is both disheartening and unfair.

Another issue is allocation of facilities. The proverbial totem pole places club sports fairly low, so we are scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to reserving practice and competition space. Varsity sports are understandably the first priority, but club sports are sacrificed first to make room for other events that have been planned long after club reservations have been made. In my case, my reservations for a club tennis tournament were altered without my consent. However, NU is building additional athletic facilities for varsity sports, so this could conceivably open more space for recreational athletics.

It is tough to say what a solution for this issue could be. Perhaps the University should have more stringent requirements when it comes to facility reservations for club sports. Maybe NU should simply give more attention to club sports and shine a bit more light on them. NU certainly has to put more effort into creating more athletic opportunities beyond club sports that students can join. The lack of depth in our recreational athletic department is the root issue, and I hope that will not be the case within the next few years.

Trevor Stoimenoff is a Weinberg junior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].