After reading your recent article about the controversy over tennis player Liora Gelblum (“Out of Bounds,” THE HOYA, Feb. 4, 2005, B1), I feel compelled to respond to a story which was not about faith, service or the education of the whole person. This story is about individual opportunities versus prior commitments.

First, all athletic scholarships are equal: whether one is a player on a low-profile women’s tennis team or a high-profile basketball team, scholarship dollars have equal value – and so should the player’s commitment to the team.

While I do not know how many “walk-ons” play for each Georgetown team, I know that there are tennis players, such as my daughter who played four years for Georgetown’s tennis team, who play without scholarships.

Students fortunate enough to receive some of Georgetown’s limited scholarship money do so with an understanding that they will contribute their utmost to a team. While many teams allow for study abroad, their members, when on campus, are expected to play for their team.

The article focused on Gelblum and Coach Bausch. But those who are most impacted by the actions of any one player are his or her teammates. In tennis, six players fill six positions in order of ranking. If a high-ranked player is not present for a match, the other players must move up. A player who might win most of her matches in the number 5 position, for example, must now compete at a higher level with poorer results.

The team in turn loses matches it would otherwise have won. Team goals, such as making it to an NCAA tournament, suffer in the process. Team members who have given their best efforts suffer because of a teammate’s individual choices.

What if every member of a team – tennis, swimming, crew or whatever – decided at various points to pursue an individual passion, however altruistic? What if every member of an orchestra asked for two weeks off to take on a private mission? What if every member of a debate team or a dance troupe decided to bow out during ten days of a season to accept a fellowship? To whom are exceptions given and to whom are they denied?

Life is about honoring commitments and managing conflicts. Any parent and child in today’s society has juggled the child’s commitments (sports, studies, religious and family obligations) from an early age.

College, the workplace, marriage and adulthood will only continue these conflicts. While service and education projects are laudable and exciting, they do not negate the fact that commitments, however mundane or secondary they may seem in contrast, should be honored.

Ultimately, a team’s success depends on its members’ willingness to put team goals over individual opportunities during the course of a season. No one forces a student to join a team; no one forces a student to accept scholarship money. These actions are undertaken in good faith and the associated commitments should be carried out until the last victory or defeat.


FEB. 9, 2005

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