As you could probably tell from previous posts, I am a huge tennis fan and love the sport. At UCLA I’m on the competitive travel club team and we play against other UC schools and teams around the country. Before coming to Japan, I was hoping there would be tennis courts at the university so I could at least continue to play, but I never imagined the experiences I would have after joining Footloose Club Tennis.
In Japan, clubs are more intensive and require a greater time commitment than clubs in the United States, so students typically dedicate their time to one or two clubs. During club rush I was introduced to ICU’s club tennis team called “Footloose.” My roommate and I went to the first practice and became members! Yuki, the captain of Footloose told us about a tournament called “Kanto” which is held in Tokyo for club teams all across the region. In Tokyo, Kanto is the only tennis tournament every year for club teams, and as you can imagine – a huge event for the club.
The tournament is set up by a bracket draw, with approximately 80 teams entered from the Tokyo prefecture. In 25 years, our university had only ever won one round in the Kanto tournament. Each match between two schools constitutes 9 individual matches – 4 doubles and 5 singles. My roommate Garrett and I both play on the UCLA club team, and our other friend Alex who also joined plays college tennis on the east coast. Our first match was against the 14th seed – Meiji University. Due to our previous record in this tournament, our team was not expected to win, especially since we were playing against a seeded team in the first round. However, the Meiji team did not know that three exchange students had joined ICU’s team, and boy they were in for a surprise. Our team ended up WINNING 5 matches to 4, and in doing so marked the second win for our university in school history.
We continued to win more matches throughout the tournament and made history since this was our best result at Kanto. I began to get in the routine of things and loved the process of traveling to our matches. Since our matches were held in Chiba (a prefecture about 2 hours away) we had to wake up pretty early and travel for quite some time. I vividly remember my teammates and I looking extremely tired on our way to the matches, and we would always stop at convenience stores to load up on onigiri (rice balls) and water. The atmosphere at a Japanese tennis match is completely different from one in America. My teammates were actually allowed on to the court while I was playing and would often times give me advice while cheering really loudly (which was actually pretty cool since most tennis atmospheres are pretty quiet and relaxed).
Our team ended up beating the 14th seeded Meiji University, Nihon University, and the 3rd seeded Waseda University before falling to the 7th seeded Keio University in the quarterfinals. Making the final eight with the Footloose team was awesome, but nothing compared to the friends I made and seeing their reactions after winning our matches. Joining Footloose was hands down the best decision I made while studying abroad, and I wish them luck in next year’s tournament where we will be seeded for the first time EVER.