Earlier this month, the Saint Anselm College Athletics Department announced the discontinuation of the men’s tennis team, leaving many student-athletes from the men and women’s tennis teams confused and looking for answers.
“The men and women’s team share a head coach and due to our small size we are combined in regards to long distance traveling, lift times and practices,” says Senior Co-Captain of the Women’s Tennis Team, Tess Malerbi. “We are also most often our only support system for each other at matches. Our main seasons are different, the women’s being in the fall and the men’s in the spring, so while we are forced to join together, often we still compete as two separate teams.”
For many students, athletics has a huge impact on their decision to attend a certain college or university.
“Being able to play tennis at a DII level was my only factor in choosing SAC,” says Senior Captain, Daniel Kmetz.
“I would never have considered this school if it was not for tennis and the athletic scholarship and the promise of an increase in the scholarship following my freshman year,” says Player, a student-athlete from the men’s team who wished to remain anonymous.
The members from both teams were disappointed with how they were told the news about the discontinuation. They were given the information after returning from a team trip to Florida for Spring Break.
“We found out in a team meeting after practice on Tuesday, March 12th, about two weeks after the decision was made,” recounts Player. “I do not think it was fair, especially during a rebuild with most of the team being underclassman, multiple high end recruits coming in and a year after having the best recruiting class in the history of the school for Men’s Tennis.”
“I found out the team was being cut when I was on my way to an interview in Logan,” says Kmetz. “My team was told to meet with Daron at 4:30 on a Tuesday with no indication of what the meeting was about. Daron told the team that Men’s Tennis will be cut at the end of the year and that was that. I think this was a totally unfair way to tell the team. We are in the middle of our season and now the entire team, not including myself, needs to scramble to transfer in time for next year.”
This is interesting when one takes into account that the announcement on the Athletics Department website says it was posted on March 11, 2019. The announcement states, “The coaching staff and student-athletes were notified at a meeting prior to Tuesday’s announcement,” which appears to not be the case. The announcement was never shared on the Hawks social media.
Player explained, “The announcement that athletics released was released during our meeting even after being told they would announce it forty-eight hours after our meeting so we could notify recruits and family members.”
“The women’s team was told about the team being cut by our coach,” adds Malerbi. “We tried to reach out to the athletic department for more answers, but we were referred to someone else and was told that they would discuss the women’s team with us. Because we are two small programs we are practically forced to combine the two teams, to allocate resources and save money for the bigger programs. So even though we are two separate teams they’ve treated us like one team, and I think it’s only fair that we should be allowed a conversation about this matter with someone who was part of the decision.”
Malerbi adds, “We’re worried that this means there won’t be a future for the women’s team. About two months ago, my co-captain and I were concerned about our program and needed help from the athletic department so we could make changes, so our team could be more successful. We even asked if the tennis programs were going to be changed to a club sport, to which they answered with a flat out no. This being only about two months before we were informed that the men’s team was being cut. Due to our past interactions, I personally have very little trust in the athletic department and it wouldn’t surprise me if the women’s team was cut in the next year.”
“I think the school has finished cutting teams and I feel that the women’s tennis team is safe, but I thought the same about the men’s team and we still got cut, so you never know,” Kmetz comments. “I also don’t think Daron and the board will go after any more teams because they have some incredible athletes who are having some equally incredible success; something that was not always the case with the men’s tennis team.”
It appears the teams were never given a direct reason for why their program was cut, leading to frustration.
“Daron was very nonspecific when telling us the reason why we were being cut,” Kmetz notes. “He told the team that is wasn’t because of performance or money, so that really doesn’t really leave any other reason. In the official notice of discontinuation on the Saint Anselm Hawks website, they say this decision came after a ‘careful review and analysis of our current varsity sport sponsorship model.’ We still do not know the exact reasons why tennis was cut and Daron refuses to meet with parents and gives the runaround to students when they go to him seeking answers. If he had told us outright that this was because of our poor performance or because they couldn’t afford the less than $20,000 budget that tennis has then this would be a completely different story.”
Kmetz adds, “I am aware that tennis is a small sport that does not bring much money into the school, if any at all, so I would understand if this was the reason for tennis being discontinued. I am more frustrated in the way that the school handled it. They are really screwing everyone on my team except for me because they have to find another school and another team in a short amount of time. We are still in limbo because we have no actual explanation for why there is no more tennis. Daron refuses to take any sliver of responsibility for this decision and it is really frustrating for us. This school is full of amazing student-athletes and coaches whose hard work has transferred to success never before seen at this school. I don’t see how this success can be maintained and improved on with Daron as Athletic Director. His favoritism and mindset of running athletics like a business will only hurt this program.”
“Originally we were just told repeatedly that the board of trustees used many varying factors, then because the sport was being underfunded, then I was told that it had to do with teams history, then was told because the AD felt like we were a bad image for the school,” Player recounts. “The real reason was the athletic director cut the team without consulting with the board of trustees instead just notifying them of the decision and did not tell the monks or anyone else on campus until the decision was finalized. We were never given a heads up until March 12th.”
“The women’s team wasn’t given any information about the decision to cut the men’s team,” says Malerbi. “In fact, no one from the athletic department has reached out to us at all. They also are only discussing this matter with the players on the men’s team, which leaves out any player on the women’s team or even parents of the players on the men’s team. Even our coach and the men on the team have very little information about the reason behind cutting their team. They were told it was for different reasons and a decision that was made after looking at the ‘sport sponsorship model.’”
For students on the team, they now have to decide whether or not to stay at Saint Anselm College.
“I have no idea where I am going next year and to be only given three weeks notice before most transfer deadlines is very concerning, especially when they were in the process of cutting the team for several months now,” says Player. “I am very frustrated that the athletic department, specifically Daron Montgomery, made the decision without consulting with anyone on campus including the monks/monastery. This is the second consecutive year of cutting a sport and most likely will not be the last. He needs to held accountable and has refused to meet with the tennis team, parents, students not on the team, or any member wanting to inquire about the team. They have not helped with the transfer process even when promising to and has not told other schools about my blanket release which allows me to talk to schools. Instead I have had to tell them or have my coach talk to the on my behalf. I have been threatened to not talk badly about the cut, the school, athletic department, or most importantly the AD by the AD or else, and I quote Daron Montgomery, ‘you will have a hard time finding a school to transfer to.’ I was told I was acting too emotionally after being told my team was being cut and he has failed or does not care that I came to continue my sport and I will be transferring because of his decision. It is very clear he expected us to just say, ‘Okay,’ and move on without a fight or even a slight push back.”
When asked about the importance of tennis as a sport, each player had a personal reason.
“I think that all sports create a healthy way for students to compete,” states Malerbi. “They teach life skills, such as good sportsmanship, time management, leadership skills and discipline. I think that all sports are important, and one doesn’t benefit students more than others. But when you cut programs such as the men’s team and the ski team it’s placing an importance on certain sports over others. It minimizes the hard work and dedication that all of my teammates and I on both the women’s and men’s team took for us to become college athletes. Personally, my parents and I sacrificed a lot of time and money so that I could practice with the best tennis players, and it’s disappointing to see all of that hard work being discredited just because tennis isn’t considered a big sport on campus.”
“Tennis isn’t a sport that will draw crowds and isn’t a sport that favors the spectator,” says Kmetz. “However, having tennis gives some student-athletes the ability to come to an amazing school and play tennis against very competitive players.”
“Tennis attracts good character guys who are good in the classroom,” adds Player. “It brings well rounded athletes that fit in very well and contribute a lot to the culture here on campus.”
Malerbi sees the discontinuation of the men’s team as an example of a bigger underlying issue within athletics.
“For me, this is more than the men’s team being cut,” Malerbi states. “There is a systematic problem with how we prioritize larger sports teams over smaller sports teams. The tennis team wasn’t provided the resources and support that it needed to succeed. Our coach is paid part time to do the work of two full time coaches. Just this year was the first time that our team received any sort of gear representing our sport and school. We haven’t had lift all year because there aren’t enough time slots for us. For the first couple weeks of our season, we had matches without any sort of media coverage to promote our team. Lastly, of the four years that I’ve been playing for this school there has only been one person from the athletic department who has ever come to support us at our matches. Our scholarship money was also taken away from us this past year, making it hard for us to entice recruits to come here. In the training room, we have heard other coaches belittling tennis by saying it does not require athleticism.”
“We’ve worked to try to better our program, but unfortunately the athletic department has not dedicated any time to improve the tennis teams,” she continues. “Rather than taking steps to improve the teams and showing accountability, the administration has taken advantage of the men’s losing records and small roster to justify its dissolution.”