Bellevue College’s tennis team won their 50th consecutive competitive match, 11 April, against Shoreline Community College. For most teams in the NWAACC league a win would be welcomed, but for our Bulldogs it was business as usual. A total of nine matches were played during the college’s clash with Shoreline—six being singles, three being doubles—and the Bulldogs won them all convincingly.
During the past four years the college has become NWAACC Tennis Champion, which is testament to the coaching and recruiting that occurs behind the scenes.
The driving force behind the college’s tennis success is the work of Jason Chapman who, as Head Tennis Coach, recruits and trains prospective tennis players. Chapman has the luxury of spotting talent at Robinswood Tennis Center where he is the Head Professional. Working directly with young players during his time coaching, it is easy to see how Chapman has recruited such a large and talented team.
In his eleventh year at the college Chapman has built a team that feels invincible. Lauren Heino, Team Captain, said, “[Chapman’s] really improved my skills.” Heino is also confident that her ladies would cruise to another NWAACC Championship win this year. “We have a really good team unity,” Heino said, expressing the confidence and support the team gives one another.
Chapman emphasizes that the confidence his team exudes is not a product of arrogance though, but a result of the talent his ladies have. “The best competition is in practice,” he said, bemused by the lack of competition his team faces on the road and at home against Northwest community colleges.
That’s why the Bulldogs organize tournaments and exhibition matches against adult players and four-year colleges; while the glory of winning is gratifying, teams need to experience bitter losses and face comparable opponents to grow. Chapman said his team’s situation has, at times, been “disappointing.”
Nevertheless, the team experiments with different strategic plays, improving the players’ intellectual game. During their 9 – 0 win over Shoreline, Chapman had instructed Stephanie Tom, Kelsey Mickels, Hannah Jordt and Stella Dwifaradewi to use hand signals whilst playing doubles. The win still seemed effortless for the Bulldogs.
While Chapman’s ability as a coach is undeniable, the college’s domination of Northwest community college tennis questions the nature of the sport. Chapman said “it is hard to get strong players in community college tennis.” Is tennis unpopular? There are enough open courts available that are scattered throughout urban areas. Does tennis become attractive at an older age? The amount of teams that four-year colleges have certainly suggests this. Or is it a class issue? Perhaps prospective players need the encouragement and tutelage of a coach like Chapman, which comes at a cost.
All of this, of course, does not discount the talent and hard work the Bulldogs have shown. Heino pointed out that other community colleges do have great players that choose not to play because the sport is “time consuming.” It’s nice to know that our ladies are willing to put in the effort to become as good as they can be, even when winning becomes almost effortless.