Opinion: End of an Era
February 2, 2017
Filed under Opinion
Jan. 26 started off like any regular Thursday.
Early morning practice, weights and class. An unexpected meeting for both men’s and women’s tennis teams was scheduled for 2:15 p.m., and whilst there was speculation, I don’t think anyone on the team could have anticipated what was to come. During the meeting, Athletic Director Tommy Bell announced that both teams were being cut. Shock, disbelief and emotions registered on everyone’s faces.
I picked up a racket when I was 5 years old. My journey began on crisp Saturday mornings at two tennis courts situated in a London park. I quickly fell in love with the game, and fell in love with the competitive side it brought out in me. I was reminded of those early mornings in the park when one of my teammates wrote a quote by Mia Hamm on our locker room wall the day the news was announced.
“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back. Play for her.”
It is pointless to ask what if, or why, as we all need to move forward in a short space of time to be in the right frame of mind and perform our commitments on the court. The cut will affect each individual differently as we are all at different stages in our college careers. However, the situation has been eased by the fact all tennis athletes have been given the opportunity to stay and those with scholarships will be awarded the same until they graduate. Ample time is also given in order to explore all available options.
It was not within the university’s power to prevent cuts, as this is a growing state budget issue with other athletic teams elsewhere being affected. Obviously, the news was not welcomed, but events happen in our lives that make us stronger and better at dealing with these kinds of experiences. Athlete life demands the highest level of dedication and the highest level of perseverance. To reach this stage, we have experienced and evolved in such a way that we can adjust very quickly. Adjustment to new places, new people and new environments is a regular constant in an athlete’s life.
Players from as far as China, Brazil, Ukraine and Russia have joined SIU to be a part of this year’s tennis team. Such diversity has helped us to grow into better teammates, better people and better athletes. Whatever careers lie ahead for players from both teams, being an athlete has prepared us for the changes and challenges that the next few months bring. Not only are we playing for each other in the last season in program history; we are playing for those before us and for those who support the program.
Every athlete will reach a crossroads sometime in his or her college career. For some of us, the cut opens up a lot of stressful and emotional thoughts as this crossroad has come sooner than expected. A lot of factors are to be considered in anyone’s choice to either stay or move on. Having said that, we have a season ahead to play and compete. Managing what is already a hectic life, focusing on the task ahead is something I have confidence we as a team achieve well.
Being a part of the Saluki women’s tennis team has taught me how to accept others, manage time, and work within a team environment. A team is like a family, and being part of this family has made me realize college years are a very special time for any athlete. The long bus rides, the close matches and the hours of practice are irreplaceable memories that we will cherish forever. Despite the circumstances, we look forward to playing out this season, and playing the very best that we can, so that we can all leave with a sense of pride knowing that we represented the history of tennis at SIU to the best our ability.
Athena Chrysanthou, a junior from London, has been a part of the tennis team for six semesters. She contributed to the Salukis’ record-breaking 12-match win streak, the longest in Saluki history. She also represented SIU in the 2015 and 2016 ITA All-Academic team. Chrysanthou also works at the Daily Egyptian as a photojournalist.