To the Editor:
I write in response to the recent article that appeared in the Feb. 21 edition of the Leader as part of sports editor Rick Schneider’s column, titled “EC women’s tennis not a strong team.” It is unfortunate that you, Rick, have written a piece about a sport and a group of young women in a manner which illustrates that you have no basic knowledge or understanding of the sport of college tennis, how the EC Women’s Tennis Program impacts the lives of these young women, why some of the other college tennis teams in mention are completely different programs from that of EC, and what the EC experience, along with the Women’s Tennis Program, imparts on the lives of these young women. Certainly, when athletic teams have challenging seasons, sports writers should report those statistics and other facts as part of a news story. You seem to have blurred the lines between a news story and an opinion piece, and for that, as an aspiring journalist, you should be ashamed, not to mention apologetic to those in the field of journalism. The opinion pages (people apparently have many) begin on page eight and the opinions editor, to whom I submit this letter/guest column, is Tom Rein.
Your apparent distain [sic.] for one or more of the people involved in the EC Women’s Tennis Program is palpable to the reader and permeates the entire article. In other articles written about EC sports teams, the writers usually have something positive to say about the program and their athletes, in addition to the statistics reported. Additionally, and if my memory serves me correctly, your predecessors never wrote a piece this demeaning about any one of the athletic teams here at EC the entire four years I attended Elmhurst College as an undergraduate student athlete.
Furthermore, you have succeeded in writing a piece that is journalistically and socially irresponsible, by labeling these young women as losers, singling out the underclasswomen as “inexperienced” and implying the upperclasswomen are less than role models and leaders by questioning who there is for the younger athletes to look up to. This is offensive and borders on bullying directed to a class of athletes that represent EC in good faith. You might as well have called them all athletically inept, useless, and suggest they keep to their rooms to study only. Your assault on the upperclass students on the women’s tennis team seems hypocritical at best, given the fact that as sports editor, the sports writers presumably look to you as their example, their “role model”….a journalist who appears to be incapable of noting the difference between a news story and an opinion piece. Incidentally, when reporting statistics, it’s important as a journalist not to leave out key statistics, such as the fact that of all 18 sports at EC, women’s tennis consistently registers the highest team grade point average. With the all-women’s grade point average at EC at 3.32, and the Women’s Tennis Team GPA at 3.77, you must be right; it’s clear these women athletes aren’t anyone to “look up to.”
Let your piece be a lesson and example of how one individual with certain perceived rights afforded by the first amendment, can demoralize an entire group of people simply because they don’t win or because they have a losing record. These young women represent themselves, our student body and Elmhurst College with dignity. These young women are student athletes. These young women are not professional athletes with bloated salaries, under constant public scrutiny from sport writers and spectators, where losing is not acceptable given their salaries and the privileges afforded them through television contracts, sponsorship deals, and tickets sold at the event. In fact, none of the athletes at EC are on athletic scholarships. At the Division III level, they are students first and foremost (remember what good students they are?). They simply play and compete for the love of the game that they more likely than not, grew up playing as children, and while obtaining a college education; and my, how they are doing that with great success. And it is now one article that serves to take the fun out of what they enjoy doing. Their participation in the sport has now been ridiculed by one sports editor who has made a mockery of what it means to be a student athlete here at Elmhurst College. Certainly, much of your disdain for our program was directed at me as coach, which I mainly overlooked, as my focus is on my players, the college’s athletes.
Maybe another career will find you someday, but it is clear to me that sports’ writing is above your grade and your writing abilities are less than the athletic abilities of my players and team. May your next journalistic efforts parallel the efforts of those tennis players whom you have ridiculed and who currently represent our student body and the college as a whole.
Perhaps the paper’s writing awards have gone to your head. I might have missed this, but in the full page ad the paper took out to publicize its accomplishments, I didn’t see mention of the competitive field of play. How many schools provided submissions for awards? Certainly your opinion piece included comparisons to other teams presumably because you wanted to educate your readers as to how our team compares to others; shouldn’t the Leader provide its readers with the same information regarding their “field of journalistic competition”?
In closing, it would be nice if sports writers’ articles inspired some school spirit and possibly motivated those here at Elmhurst College to attend matches for both the men’s and women’s teams. If the occasion arises, as you play no collegiate sports, might you possibly find your way to our courts for a try out? Maybe you would like to join either the men’s or women’s team, whichever one you think you can handle. Maybe start with the women’s team…I understand that they would like a moment of your time to teach you a thing or two about the game.
Elmhurst Class of 2007
Head Coach, Men’s and Women’s Tennis