LACONIA — The Laconia High School boy's varsity tennis team has been taken off the 2014 spring sports roster due to a decline in student participation.
Over the past two years the team experienced a big drop-off in participation, and so could not meet the minimum requirement of six players at the start of the 2013 season. That, combined with double sports conflicts among some team members, sickness, and other issues, left the team short of players consistently throughout the season. Falling short of the required numbers, the team was forced to forfeit many of its matches last year.
When evaluating the status of the team prior to the current season, high school administrators decided to remove the team from the school roster because it could not meet the standards set by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. The school is open to reinstating the program in the future. But school administrators say more than six students would need to sign up for a tennis team before the school would notify the NHIAA of Laconia High's intention to reactivate the team.
"The lack of students participating in tennis in Laconia could be a factor as simple as court location. If the locations of the sports venue was at the middle school or the elementary schools, then students would be able to learn at a younger age. It is hard for students to take up tennis as a beginner in high school, especially when other students in neighboring towns have been playing for years, " said Laconia High Athletic Director Craig Kozens.
Kozens also said costs to students and their families could be partly to blame for the drop in participation. Sports can be costly to families, he said, particularly in tennis which often requires private lessons and training year-round. Laconia does not have an indoor facility available for use during the winter. Kozens said that greatly hinders the program because students do not have access to courts to use for practice and training year-round. Although there are some private facilities in the Lakes Region available to families, they are often too costly for individuals to afford, he said.
"It's disappointing that there isn't a tennis team this year, because it is a lifelong sport that people can all play," stated Kozens. "But like anything though it's all a cycle, so hopefully we will have youth movement occur over the next few years that will help fill the spots and bring back the team to Laconia."
Despite the elimination of the boys tennis team, the overall trend of athletic participation is increasing at the high school. Participation in track has quadrupled over the past year, and there is a sharp increase in students on the bowling and bass fishing team. Kozens recognizes that there is a decline in the enrollment in sports programs statewide, however in most sectors of sports Laconia is going against this statewide trend.