Rosemary Campanella wants to play high school tennis this spring.

Problem is, her school doesn’t have a varsity tennis team. And Maine’s high school tennis rules all but prevent her from playing for another school.

So the Wells High freshman is fighting back.

Campanella started a blog in February to call attention to the dilemma. The site includes an electronic petition asking the Maine Principals’ Association to “please fix cooperative high school tennis.” More than 430 people have signed it. And the blog – called “There’s No ‘I’ in Team” – has received supportive comments from high school coaches and adult players.

“It’s just so plain wrong,” Campanella, 15, said of the rules.

Campanella, with the help of her father, forwarded the petition to the principals’ association. It seeks to allow players such as herself, at schools without varsity tennis, to play for neighboring teams as full-fledged members. The petition will be reviewed by the association’s Tennis Committee during its meeting Thursday in Augusta.

“After we contacted (the MPA) a few times and they hadn’t really given us any reassurance they were going to do anything about it we decided to go ahead and do something,” Campanella said before a private lesson at Foreside Fitness & Tennis in Falmouth.

“There will be a response,” said committee chair John Mullen, principal of Cheverus High School. “If not (Thursday), then fairly soon after.” The Tennis Committee can make recommendations regarding rules, but not a final decision, Mullen said. Any rule change would have to be approved by the principals’ association’s general membership.

Campanella plays the clarinet in the school band and is a member of the math team at Wells High. Her sole athletic endeavor is tennis, a sport she’s played since the first grade. She is one of the top junior players in Maine and frequently travels out of state to compete in United States Tennis Association New England events.

But those events do not foster camaraderie like being on a high school varsity team.

“Until you get on the high school team you really don’t have that full team experience,” she said.


Wells does offer a club team, said the school’s athletic director, Jack Malloy.

“But Rosemary is a high-level player so she wanted to play at the varsity level,” Malloy said. “Our numbers at Wells, we just don’t have the numbers to form a tennis team.”

So Rosemary and her father, Kevin Campanella, searched for a solution. They thought they had the problem solved when the principals of Wells and Kennebunk high schools agreed to allow her to compete with the Kennebunk tennis team.

But in January, the Campanellas discovered that the principals’ association classifies tennis as a “cooperative/individual sport” rather than a “cooperative team sport,’ which allows two or more schools to join together to form one team with all members having equal eligibility.

Many sports, such as girls’ and boys’ hockey, fall into the latter category. But, said Mullen, “Tennis is not one of them and that’s the issue at hand. That’s the question we need to revisit.”

The cooperative/individual system works well for certain sports, including track and field, skiing, cross country, swimming and wrestling.

If a student attends a school that does not offer one of those sports, he or she is allowed to participate with another school’s team while representing their own high school. At the end of the season, the individuals are eligible to compete in state championship meets or tournaments.

Tennis is different. Campanella could play with the Kennebunk team, but any of her regular-season matches would hinder the team’s score. Win or lose, her match would be considered a forfeit.

“It’s really not fair … playing high school tennis and just not having it count,” she said. “It affects the whole rest of the team, too.” Another option would be for Campanella to play only exhibition matches against other teams’ less-skilled players. But that’s a poor option, according to her private coach, Mike Hill.

“She would play No. 1 singles for most high school teams in the state,” Hill said. “Maybe 99 percent of them.”

In her practice session with Hill, the 5-foot-6 Campanella displayed impressive shots with her forehand and especially her two-handed backhand. Her serve is crisp and powerful.


She is not the only player affected by the tennis-participation rules.

Krishna Patel is a senior at Pine Tree Academy in Freeport who lives in Brunswick. A frequent hitting partner with Campanella, Patel has unsuccessfully tried to join the Brunswick High team the past three years, he said.

“I’ve been just living with it. I don’t like it,” Patel said.

Campanella said she has heard of other players being similarly affected. She said she felt a responsibility to try to fight for her right to play high school tennis.

“It’s just a really big deal for me,” Campanella said. “I can’t express enough how much I want to play meaningful high school tennis. It’s not that I wanted to go through this process. It’s that I had to. The experience was good, I guess, but I just really want to play.”

On Wednesday, World Team Tennis tweeted its support of Campanella to its 78,900 followers.

“I think she has a pretty strong following,” Hill said. “A lot of other coaches in Maine, high school coaches (and) private teachers, and a lot of strong tennis players also feel the same way – that not just Rose but everyone in her position needs an equal chance to compete on a high school team.”