When the Taylor women’s and men’s tennis teams were summoned for an important meeting in the spring of 2020, team members were filled with wonder and concern.
This concern was amplified when the teams were told that tennis would no longer be considered a sport at Taylor, but rather, a club.
For current senior Julianna Hotmire, this news was devastating. It meant that she would be unable to participate in varsity tennis her senior year. Since she participated in tennis all three previous years, this was something she had been looking forward to since her freshman year.
“I think we all weren’t finished yet because it was cut so abruptly,” Hotmire said. “We didn’t have time to process really.”
Hotmire, a biology pre-med major from Bluffton, Ohio, was made the president of the new co-ed tennis club this past fall.
She has been challenged through her presidential position, but has experienced a lot of growth in her leadership abilities and development within the club itself.
“It’s something that I’ve never done before, so I’m trying to figure out what it looks like to be a president, not just like of a women’s sport but of a co-ed sport — what it means to be president and what it means to set up the club for the future,” Hotmire said. “Like what building a community, building an environment that’s healthy, that’s going to inspire growth and just working with peers on the team to give them what they’re wanting out of practice and trying to meet the needs of the team as well as cultivating good tennis.”
Despite the team’s transition into a club being difficult and heartbreaking for many players, Hotmire said it has been great in the sense that they are able to reach out to people who normally wouldn’t play tennis in college. These new members can either learn how to play the sport or simply be provided with a fun, exciting space to grow and play.
As the president, Hotmire makes intentional efforts to bond the women’s and men’s teams together into a single united club. She also makes strong efforts to get to know the players on deeper levels.
“(We’re) just trying to go the extra mile of meeting with all of the women once a week or doing a Bible study once a week to make sure that we’re not only having fun on the court but getting to know each other on a deeper level and helping each other grow,” Hotmire said.
Although she has been actively involved in tennis all four of her years at Taylor, Hotmire’s love for tennis did not start in college.
For Hotmire, tennis is a family sport which meant that she started taking tennis lessons at the young age of five. In high school, she began to take tennis much more seriously while playing for her high school’s team.
When talking to her high school coach about her college decision to attend Taylor, he suggested that she continue her tennis career in college. Before long, she was playing tennis at Taylor.
While she was not on varsity during the fall of her freshman year, Hotmire was able to join the varsity team that spring.
“For my first few matches, I was able to prove myself,” Hotmire said. “And so that was really a good feeling because I wasn’t sure if it was something that I wanted to continue doing, but by going out and playing varsity and winning the matches and having my team come and support me afterward and say, ‘Oh we’re so proud of you, we knew you could do it, you were playing really well,’ to feel that support and love from that community really meant a lot to me.”
In addition to being involved with tennis, Hotmire has been involved deeply with the biology program at Taylor through which she has conducted research with several professors. She has also been involved in the diabetes prevention program and has participated in Spanish program trips to Spain and Ecuador.
Hotmire is grateful for her experiences at Taylor and feels as though Taylor has helped her grow in many ways and has set the stage for how she hopes to live.
After leaving Taylor this spring, she plans to take a gap year in which she will work at her dad’s office, prepare her application for medical school and run a diabetes clinic.
She also hopes to incorporate tennis into her future as a hobby, or possibly, as a tennis coach.
Looking back, Hotmire reflects on how difficult experiences like the tennis team getting cut are all a part of God’s plan for her life.
“At the end of the day, you have to remember that God has a plan and His plan is a greater purpose than you could ever imagine,” Hotmire said. “And it may not be what you want or what you expected, but it’s going to be something that you will be able to grow from. You will also be able to use it to help others in ways that you didn’t expect or they didn’t expect.”