Tufts University removed the basketball hoops located outside Harleston Hall in an effort to create more court space for the men’s and women’s varsity tennis teams in early October. The decision temporarily removes the only available outside space for Tufts pickup basketball players.
In an email to the Daily, Director of Athletics Communications Paul Sweeney explained why the expanded tennis space is needed for competitions in the spring.
According to NESCAC scheduling guidelines, competing teams must have a minimum of six tennis courts to qualify for spring competition, he said.The Vouté Tennis Courts, which the tennis teams typically use, are currently unusable, as they are occupied by the Mods, which house students with COVID-19. As a result, the tennis team has been limited to four courts near Harleston Hall. The removal of the hoops has created space for two additional courts.
Oliver Obeid, a player on the men's varsity tennis team, explained to the Daily that tennis regulations in the NESCAC had been relaxed during the 2020–21 school year. Now those regulations, like the requirement for at least six available courts, are returning.
For the first part of the 2021–22 school year, before the basketball hoops had been removed, the Tufts varsity tennis teams had been practicing in the Gantcher Center and on the four Harleston tennis courts. Obeid, a sophomore, explained how the limited court space had impacted his training.
"We don’t practice as much as we would like when we go indoors,” Obeid said.
According to Obeid, the team is now able to qualify for the competition and can practice in an environment that mirrors the competition setting.
The decision to remove the hoops near Harleston was met with disappointment from those at Tufts who play pickup basketball.
Pickup basketball player Andrew Younan told the Daily that the group of Tufts pickup basketball players who use Harleston hoops is upwards of 30 students, with smaller groups often going out for games together. Zane Ice, a sophomore and fellow pickup player, said it was typical to find the Harleston courts full with multiple ongoing pickup games.
With the removal of the hoops to create space for the tennis team to practice and PE classes to be held, pickup players have been forced to move into Chase Gym for games. The space is shared with Tufts’ varsity basketball teams.
Ice explained that without the hoops, pickup players have been missing a chance for outdoor socialization with friends.
The outdoor courts were an important space for Younan, now a sophomore, when he came to Tufts last year. He explained that while he is grateful to be able to use the indoor courts, they are unable to replicate the same feeling present in an outdoor pickup game. For many students, pickup games at the Harleston hoops have been bright spots in what have been a challenging past few years.
"Especially during the pandemic it's been a savior for me to be able to socialize and be active in a safe environment," Ice said.
Sweeney explained that the lack of outdoor basketball courts is temporary, however.
"Because of the student interest in basketball, the project plan also includes the installation of new basketball hoops on the Harleston Hall side of those same courts for playing half-court pick-up," Sweeney said. "Barring any supply chain issues, the plan is for the basketball hoops to be installed by the end of October."
Students criticized the lack of warning they received before the removal of the Harleston hoops.
“I heard about it from people who I played with on the courts,” Ice said. “Over the days we started piecing together more information and finally heard from someone on a tennis team that they were going away entirely.”
This lack of transparency from university officials frustrated Ice and his teammates.
“The kind of spaces that Tufts creates around campus matter for a lot of people who aren’t necessarily part of a social program,” Ice said.
Despite these complaints, the pickup basketball players explained that they understand the necessity of converting the outdoor space into tennis courts.
“If losing the courts is what the tennis team needs, it had to be done," Younan said.