By Brian Vigna
Most Flagler students may not even be able to tell you if we have a football team. But we do have a very rich history of excellence in athletics.
Historically, one of Flagler’s strongest programs is our men’s and women’s tennis teams which have won several national titles. Less than a decade ago the tennis program was known as one the best in NAIA Florida Sun Conference. Today the tennis buzz on campus is smaller and fewer people attend matches.
The majority of fans at tennis matches are friends or family of the players or part of the Flagler Tennis Booster Club, usually not groups of excited students.
Coach Walter Shinn believes tennis just isn’t that type of sport. “We’ll never be like the basketball or football team at a big school,” Shinn said. “Look at University of Indiana or Kentucky, both great tennis programs, but neither have a huge student fan population.”
Students might not get into the sport as much as other sports like basketball or football because tennis is a sport that requires fans to keep their composure. Booing and yelling at refs is discouraged.
For many Flagler students these expectations are enough to keep them clear of the tennis center. But Shinn thinks fans could still have fun at tennis matches.
“At Georgia, the fans all lineup around the courts and bark at the opponents. It’s fun,” Shinn said.
Recently, Flagler played Army, a Div. I team with name recognition, and nothing was publicized. No one showed up.
Shinn doesn’t quite know why the students don’t pay more attention to tennis.
“We have always had several players in the top 10, and we still do,” he said.