CSU Awards Budget to Concordia’s Self-Made Tennis Club

A Fresh Start for a Team Striving for Success

  • Concordia’s tennis club is looking to expand their audience this year as a new member of the CSU. Photo Caitlin Yardley

When you think of Concordia sports, you’re likely to miss out on its tennis club. But with this year’s funding from the Concordia Student Union, the team’s story might be hard to forget.

Independent since its inception close to six or seven years ago, the team’s updated status as a member of the CSU brings new life to the club—one that fourth year men’s co-captain, Antoine Clément, takes straight to the court.

“Just being official [is] huge because it means we can compete knowing our school is behind us,” said Clément. “Before, we were fighting for our school but we didn’t get the representation, so in one sense it didn’t really matter. Now we know that we have an impact on our school and the way our school views us.”

Details of the budget are still undisclosed, but what’s clear is, despite not being recognized as a varsity team yet, the club is hoping to receive a contribution towards their most important expenses: court times and league fees.

Due to Concordia’s lack of training facilities for tennis, the team is forced to travel long distances and rent expensive courts elsewhere in the city—which can be mentally draining and time consuming, explained Clément. He added the club has to use public transit, which means long commutes for the team.

Practicing twice a week at the IGA Stadium at Parc Jarry for a year now, the club’s decision to elect two captains on both the men’s and women’s team made things run smoothly on and off the court. As a self-funded team, the club knew organization and structure would be parallel to their success, and admission to the CSU.

When women’s co-captain, Kieu-Nhi Vu, announced the good news to Clément, plans to build a tennis tradition at Concordia were rejuvenated.

“I was really surprised, I didn’t expect that so soon. And then [I felt relieved],” said Clément.

“There was one part this summer we didn’t think we’d have a team, I’m gonna be completely honest. I knew joy would come[…] but the relief to know we have a shot, that’s what I felt,” he added.

Having joined the club last fall, Vu knew right away how she’d impact the club.

The second year biology student led board meetings during the admission process to the CSU, prepared and filed documentation relating to their activities and expenses, and scheduling for matches and practices.

“There was one part this summer we didn’t think we’d have a team, I’m gonna be completely honest. I knew joy would come[…] but the relief to know we have a shot, that’s what I felt,” Antoine Clément

As a young woman, Vu understands the importance of involving women in sports, and what this boost means to the program.

With their vision widening, she feels the next step is “to get more visibility and build something that is more solid for the future [..] and that might eventually lead us to being more like in the athletics department and becoming Stingers.”

After making the playoffs for the first time two years ago and reaching the semi finals last year in the Québec University Tennis League, the club is making a strong case for themselves.

Funded more than 100 years ago, the tennis league’s popularity has increased over the years adding more events, activities and competitions to their agenda. The league strives to create a healthy environment for athletes to play tennis, notably the cégep and university circuits, where students compete against each other on a weekly basis from January to April.

The balance of talent Concordia’s tennis club has developed on both men’s and women’s teams, which Clément believes the club lacked in the past, has transformed the team into respected contenders, in a league of six teams where unlike Concordia tennis, clubs are mostly varsity.

“We’re right there in the mix,” said Clement. “We have not set in that fear factor yet. I mean teams are definitely coming into the match saying ok, Concordia tennis is here to fight and that’s all I want.”

On the women’s side, co-captain Rafaela Panizza, like Vu, has found a way to focus on her leadership role.

Antoine Clément prepares to play point while teammate delivers serve. Photo Caitlin Yardley

The Brazilian— who’s also played Division 1 tennis states in the United States—explained that she loves to see people grow, as lending a veteran voice to new players who need advice with time management in university is her biggest priority.

Finishing her masters in building engineering at Concordia, Panizza is ranked one of the best tennis players in Québec, winning 94 per cent of her sets in her eight game win streak last season.

Though her goal is for the tennis club to become a solid and organized tradition at Concordia, at the moment she knows being in the CSU is a good step towards longevity.

“It’s good for us, because I think being in the CSU will let people know that we exist pretty much,” she said. “I feel like that will help a lot in terms of recruiting, especially international students.”

On the men’s side, Clement not only has a bond with his brother Grégoire —who was the club’s number one player last year— but his co-captain as well, Abdel Taleki. Taleki has been on the team for two and a half years, and is eager to start the season as he explained that the team is going to work harder, but it will be better and exciting.

Heading into their regular season in January, the club has much to look forward to. Using the CSU’s platform as an official body endorsing the teams, the club will pursue partnerships and sponsors with companies across Québec and Canada to grow their reach.

According to Clément, the club will also look to gather more fans at their exhibition games this year, where their main goal will be to spread the word and vision.

It seems like only a matter of time before the club reaches its full potential and competes with other already established tennis programs like Université de Montréal, Laval, and McGill.

Beyond that lies the passion behind it all.

“The dream for me, and the whole team is to make Nationals one day. That’s the ultimate sporting goal cause that’s what we can control. All we can control is us,” said Clément.

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