Last week, the bowling team was shocked to learn that their team would be disbanded. After the initial surprise, the players were left with only confusion. However, the players are not at fault, according to Joe Worlund. Graceland is going through a period of analyzing the budget, so financial issues played a role in this cut. But finances aside, the bowling team simply didn’t become what the Athletics department hoped it would. Worlund says, “There used to be bowling lanes in Leon, but they closed, so the team has been driving to Mount Ayr, Des Moines, or Osceola to practice. We found that recruiting bowlers to a school that doesn’t have bowling lanes is difficult, and we could never reach the team sizes we wanted. If we ever got bowling lanes on campus, a bowling team could thrive here.”
Though the Athletic Department’s reasons for cutting the team are understandable, Worlund struggles with the emotional side of the decision. He says, “A lot of these players came to Graceland specifically to be collegiate bowlers, and it’s hard to see that go.” This is exactly the situation Lareece Chambers finds herself in. “Bowling was the main reason I came to Graceland because California doesn’t consider bowling as a sport, so I wouldn’t have received any scholarship money for playing there. I knew since freshman year of high school that I wanted to be a collegiate bowler. I accomplished that, but I wish it wasn’t taken away. However, I’m glad Graceland was willing to give bowling a shot!” Rebecca Early agrees that she’s glad bowling had a chance at Graceland, but, she says, “I wish we could’ve had more time to expand the program. But without a practice area close, it’s less likely the team will come back.”
While the bowling team is, unfortunately, certain about the near future, the tennis team is not. Worlund says, “Tennis is officially on a hiatus. It’s a tennis court problem. Two years ago, we had the courts fixed and were told at that time that the repairs would last for about three to five years, but two years in, they’re already showing signs of disrepair. The long-term answer is to build new courts, which would probably cost around $1.5 million, and we don’t have that money. We are still holding out a limited amount of hope that a donor will come through with money to fund tennis, especially within the next month. If that doesn’t happen soon, we can’t ask the coach to recruit new players when we aren’t sure that there’ll be a team next year.” The athletics department is not happy about potentially cutting tennis. “It’s disappointing for sure. Tennis has a large alumni following, and in the last twenty years, it’s probably been our most successful sport,” Worlund says, stressing that this decision has nothing to do with the players.
Although they understand that their performance did not affect this decision, it’s still hard for the players to hear, though the team is trying to stay positive. Jessica Worring, tennis player, says, “Being able to make it to college for tennis was an accomplishment in itself. I’m so glad to have been a part of this team for the past three years. I believe this team has impacted the school for the good. It’s been the most successful in the past.” Another tennis player, Amy Haberthier, expresses the same sentiment. “Although this change is a big one, we’re trying to pull together as a team to finish this season out the best we can. It’s a hard transition but there’s still hope for a donor to come through. If not, I just hope we can finish this season by taking both teams to Nationals. This team has brought me some of my best friends and awesome memories for the last three years so I’m forever grateful for having been a part of this team,” Haberthier says.
With all of the financial reviews underway, The Tower asked Joe Worlund what other changes might be expected. Worlund replied that the next step is to “right-size” the teams. “We have a huge percentage of student-athletes, and we think some of the teams that are too large make it really hard to retain students. For example, if you’re the eighth string tight end, you never really get to play. So for some sports, we’re trying to reduce numbers for those reasons, for retention. We also have a couple of teams, like cross country and track, that have been historically under-numbered. So there’s a wash in the number of student-athletes that we can recruit. By making some teams bigger and some teams smaller, we hope to fix this issue.”
Although the Athletic department is trying to make the best of a difficult situation, the feelings of the bowling and tennis teams are not to be marginalized. And although their teams’ futures are unknown, the players will continue to play the sport they love. Lareece Chambers plans to bowl over the summer in leagues or tournaments, or to visit Mount Ayr for a fun bowling night with friends. Amy Haberthier says, “Tennis has been a part of my life for a really long time so whether or not there will be a team, I will still always love and play as much as I possibly can.”
With hope for a future, the athletes on both teams will continue to play the sport they’re passionate about. And, hey, if you’ve got a million dollars lying around, give it to the tennis team.
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