Wisconsin team President and leader Matthew Ship faced financial and team morale woes heading into 2011, only to turn things around and lead a strong unit to a National Championship berth.
Ship's Badgers squad won their opening contest with Elon University.
By Sarah Houseknecht, special to USTA.com
CARY, N.C. -- Matthew Ship, a senior from the University of Wisconsin-Madison club tennis team, will be honored this Saturday as the USTA Tennis On Campus Leader of the Year for the 2011-2012 season. The award is presented annually to the college student who has made significant contributions to the USTA’s Tennis On Campus program in a manner that benefits the well-being of their fellow students and the surrounding community.
Ship’s Wisconsin Badgers won their opening tilt with Elon University on Thursday morning and will also play Iowa and defending Tennis On Campus national champion UCLA in Pool A.
"Being selected as the Tennis on Campus Leader of the Year is very humbling," said Ship, who also serves as President of the Wisconsin team. "This honor is flattering and makes me so happy to know my teammates have had a wonderful experience. The award brings everything full circle, and is a great way to wrap up my four years of club tennis here at Wisconsin."
Since joining the club’s executive board in 2008, Ship can attest to the growing popularity of club tennis on his campus. To accommodate student interest, the University of Wisconsin-Madison formed a travel and a recreational squad with more than 160 students participating in club tryouts last fall.
On the court, Ship has successfully balanced the needs of both competitive and recreational players in the club: With practices twice a week and regular weekend socials, Ship has found the perfect combination.
Of the many qualified nominees, Ship received overwhelming support from his teammates with nearly a dozen nominations. Nicole Forbord, a three-year club member, said the praise was well-deserved.
"Matt came into a difficult situation as the team captain this season," said Forbord. "Last year, the club was having financial and participation issues. He has brought so much energy to everything we do and totally raised the morale."
It’s this energy that has led the team to success this season both on and off the court. Ship and the executive board revamped the club’s budget and set up a variety of fundraisers to build resources in support of the program. This season, the Badgers ran an apparel sale and worked with campus businesses to generate revenue.
"He is a role model for the rest of the team," said Ben Trapp, a two-year club member. "His leadership style has really loosened the mood. People want to come to practice now."
Ship has made a difference off the court as well. Under his leadership, the Wisconsin club team works as a support group for the university’s varsity tennis programs promoting fan interaction on campus. The club also plans to offer 10 and Under Tennis clinics for Madison youth next season to build local awareness and interest in the sport.
"Matthew exemplifies the ideals we look for in our Tennis On Campus leaders," said Glenn Arrington, National Manager, USTA Tennis On Campus. "He is passionate and dedicated to not only to his teammates and the sport but also to the Madison community. The USTA is very proud to present this award to Matthew."
The Tennis On Campus program is designed to provide college students with opportunities for team camaraderie, social networking and competition, without the rigors of a varsity program. Perfect for athletes who have chosen not to make the jump from high school to college varsity, Tennis On Campus offers match play, regional and national championship competition while helping students maintain active and healthy lifestyles through their college years.
The tournament is administered by the United States Tennis Association in partnership with the NIRSA, Leaders in Collegiate Recreation, Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), and World TeamTennis (WTT). This partnership has not only resulted in record participation at the National Championship, but in growing interest and participation in tennis on college campuses throughout the country.
Since its inception in 2000, Tennis On Campus has grown to over 600 colleges and universities and 35,000 student-athlete participants. With approximately 350,000 students playing high school tennis nationwide and only a fraction of those having an opportunity to play college varsity tennis, the USTA Tennis On Campus program fills a tremendous void on campuses around the country.