Labor Day weekend is typically viewed as a time to take advantage of all that summer has to offer one last time before autumn arrives. However, the Seton Hall tennis team forwent traditional activities to instead volunteer their time at the 2015 U.S. Open in Queens, N.Y.
The team participated in what was called the American Express Fan Experience, volunteering for two days, Sunday and Monday, from the hours of 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“Our role as volunteers at the U.S. Open was to help instruct juniors,” senior captain Hannah Liljekvist said. “We taught them the right techniques and encouraged them to continue to play tennis on a regular basis. It was so much fun. All of us enjoyed it and we couldn’t get those smiles off our faces. It was a great experience that all of us truly enjoyed.”
The Pirates participated in “Tennis Anywhere,” a program located inside the East gate of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center that taught some of the key fundamentals to younger players, primarily of the ages 12 and under. Head coach Greg Wyzykowski described some of those skills taught.
“We would teach them how to hold a racquet, recognize a short ball, deep ball, how to swing at the ball, how to keep rallies alive,” he said. “They had different activities going on throughout the day. Ours was teaching kids that you can play in your back yard, teaching kids how to rope up from two garbage cans.”
The Pirates also volunteered at the U.S. Open in 2013 and participated in a program called “Smash Zone.” The event featured different stations, including ones that taught participants how to hit a rally and measure the speed of a serve.
Wyzykowski wanted to get the team involved again this year.
“I reached out to the Director of the U.S. Open and said, ‘Hey we enjoyed Smash Zone a couple years ago. I’d love to get the team involved at the U.S. Open again and do any kind of volunteer work.’”
The event proved to be rewarding for everyone involved from the kids to the parents and the team. For the younger tennis players, it was an opportunity to learn from players that they may strive to be in the future.
It also gave the team time to be reminded of why they play the game.
“This volunteering truly served as a reminder to enjoy the fun of the game of tennis,” Liljekvist said. “It reminded me to have fun while playing. I believe happy players are good players.”
It also provided as a chance for team-building prior to the start of the season. Nearly the entire roster participated in the American Express Fan Experience (one member who was unable to make the trip).
For the freshmen, it was their first experience of seeing what Seton Hall is about, and for the returning players, it was a chance to get together for the first time since May.
“For the chance for the team to get together, have a fun activity, represent the school, represent the sport, and they got the chance to catch some matches before and after they worked, so that was nice,” said coach Wyzykowski.
It was a positive experience for all involved and if the same opportunity arises next year, Wyzykowski would love to bring the team back.
“They loved everything the girls did and said they would love for us to come back,” Wyzykowski said. “So hopefully they have the same thing next year.”
Matt Zeigafuse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @mattzeigafuse.