Here is an interesting article from the Stanford Daily yesterday re: their non-participation at the ITAs.
By: Anthony Nguyen
Published: November 6, 2008
The 2008 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships begin today at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, but don’t count on the Stanford women’s tennis team to participate this year.
As storied of a history as any program in the nation, Stanford has elected not to participate in this year’s Indoor Championships, effectively ending its fall season earlier than expected.
Though Stanford has the talent to qualify for the Championships, its boycott of one of the toughest tournaments of the season comes with a strong message, according to head coach Lele Forood.
“My opinion is that college tennis has gone too ambitious in our off-season,” Forood said. “We play too much during this period of the year, and we need to start modifying our tennis schedule in the fall. We’re sending a message that we don’t believe this tournament should be in existence anymore.”
The Indoor Championships have been a mainstay in collegiate tennis since 1984 for the women’s side. Initially played in February, the Indoors were moved to the fall season a few years ago, which adds to Stanford’s recurring problems with the fall season schedule. Stanford, which starts school late due to the quarter system, is as a result at a disadvantage entering major tournaments in early October.
With five tournaments scheduled for the sport’s “off-season,” Forood questioned whether it is a healthy decision to push her team when it matters the least.
“I think it’s time when we need people in school more,” Forood said. “When you play Indoors, you leave on a Tuesday morning and miss an entire week of school to play a tournament. It’s gotten a bit out of hand considering we’re in our off-season, supposedly.”
Last year, the Stanford women’s tennis team sent only one player, then-junior Jessica Nguyen, to the Championships. Sophomore Hilary Barte and senior Jessica Nguyen were expected to receive at-large bids to this year’s event, but are not entering. Sophomore Alex Clayton of the men’s tennis team will be the only Stanford player at the tournament.
“Two players had the potential to play the Indoors: Hilary and Jessica,” Forood said. “I think they realized both were taking a lot of econ. midterms this week, and they realized that there’s not a lot of value to playing in the last tournament of the fall. It’s a lot of time off school for, to me, not a large reward.”
As players juggle their academic schedule and getting through autumn quarter, the demands of the fall season have taken a definite toll. With the academic rigor of the Stanford curriculum, Forood said that the negatives of the tournament outweigh any possible benefits.
“I have had some discussions with coaches from other good academic institutions during the All-American Tournament about what should take place during the fall,” Forood said. “A lot of these kids are playing four or five events during the fall, which is ridiculous when our real season is during the winter and spring. It really needs to get corrected, but it’s hard to cut back on these events that have been going for a while.”
Though the Indoors may give the players a few extra matches and some padding in the ITA rankings, Forood believes there is little lost from their absence.
“There’s no obligation to play them initially,” she said. “These tournaments enhance the ranks of the participants, but everything’s shut down in college tennis for the next two months anyway. So, it’s hard to argue that these matches will do anything for these player’s games except improve their ranking.”
Another major issue of a rigorous fall season is the funding behind traveling to each tournament. With the bad economy and lack of ITA funding support, Stanford has questioned whether these off-season tournaments are worth their effort.
“A lot of expenses to fund the players to these events used to get paid by the ITA,” Forood said. “Now it’s a money issue to go to all of these individual tournaments. We certainly have to look at what we must go to before our dual-match season.”
Finally, after a travel heavy 2008 campaign, the Stanford women are less than eager to travel across the country for a tournament that could do more harm than help. Forood believes that travel schedules must be better coordinated in the future..
“I’d also like to see the conference do a better job of scheduling us because we go from one year where we travel just about all the time to this year coming up where we hardly travel at all,” Forood said. “I think there’d be a better balance to have a little travel each year instead.”
As a former Stanford player and coach of 21 years, Forood has experienced everything to do with college tennis. With the best interests of her players in mind, she has sent out a clear message to collegiate tennis: Stanford’s student-athletes are first and foremost full-time students, not frequent flyers.