Rosemary Campanella, a freshman at Wells High, would like to play tennis for Kennebunk High because her school doesn’t offer the sport.

Kennebunk girls’ tennis coach Paul Gaylord would love to have Campanella on his team.

But a Maine Principals’ Association rule – one expected to be changed before the 2015-16 school year – prevents Campanella from playing any countable matches for Kennebunk, though she can practice and travel with the team.

Area coaches think that’s a shame.

“My perspective is, if a rule is right tomorrow then it’s right today,” Gorham boys’ tennis coach Aaron Landry said of the impending rule change, which would allow two or more schools to form one cooperative team. ”

Campanella said “friends at school and other people, they couldn’t believe,” that the MPA denied her request for a waiver to play for Kennebunk this season.


“A lot of people expected this to be changed, and the fact that it wasn’t fixed was shocking to some people,” she said.

Campanella’s petition for a rule change or waiver drew considerable support – both for her desire to play team tennis and her gumption.

The MPA Tennis Committee opted to take “no action” on Campanella’s petition. It maintained the current rule that classifies tennis as a “cooperative individual” sport, which means tennis players who attend a school that doesn’t have a tennis team can only compete officially in the state singles tournament.

Camden Hills boys’ tennis coach Noah Capetta, a teaching pro at Mid-Coast Recreation Center in Rockport, has kept a close watch on the proceedings. If Campanella had won her fight, it would have opened the door for one of Capetta’s private students, Islesboro High senior Madison Cook, to join the Belfast High team.

“It was disappointing but not unexpected,” Capetta said. “The MPA has a history of kind of deferring these sorts of issues and kind of hoping that they just go away. Hopefully this movement will gain traction and they’ll be able to overturn the policy.”

In fact, it’s highly likely the current rule that classifies tennis and other sports with individual championships as “cooperative individual” sports will be changed April 30. The MPA’s full membership will vote on a proposal from the organization’s Classification Committee to reclassify all sports as “cooperative team” activities. If passed, schools can establish a cooperative agreement at the local level and, if approved by the MPA, form a combined team. This practice is already done in hockey, football and some other team sports.


“The Tennis Committee had no authority to change that rule,” said MPA Assistant Executive Director Gerald Durgin, who serves on the Tennis Committee.

“If the Classification Committee’s proposal passes, and I fully expect it will, and Kennebunk still wants to have a cooperative team, then (Campanella) would be able to play next season,” Durgin said. “Does it answer it for this spring? No, it does not. But it is a rule that you’ve already followed for two-thirds of the school year.”

So Campanella will practice on occasion with Kennebunk. She and Gaylord both hope she’ll get into a few matches – which Kennebunk will have to forfeit, or default, as it’s called in tennis parlance.

“I feel like the Kennebunk team is doing what they can to make me part of their team, but it’s not going to be the same as being a full member,” Campanella said. “I want to really try to get along socially. To be with the team is one of the goals, but having all the points against me is a restriction. It does limit me. When we go up to matches, we’re going to try to get me a match to let me play, but that can be tricky.”

Gaylord said because the tennis coaches are a “pretty nice, tight-knit community” they are all aware of Campanella’s situation. At the Western Maine Conference tennis coaches’ meeting on April 6, it was suggested that since any matches played by Campanella will be considered a Kennebunk default, opposing teams should consider moving their No. 1 player to third singles, where they would play Campanella.

In Maine high school tennis, seven players make up a varsity lineup. Three play singles matches, and there are two doubles matches.


Last season, Kennebunk played several matches with only six players, defaulting at third singles. This season, Kennebunk has 11 players. Seven are seniors and several are first-year players.

“It’s just a really difficult situation for Rosemary to be in, and last year we finished with six players, so we need players,” Gaylord said.

Kevin Campanella, Rosemary’s father, expressed frustration that the only explanation he received for the MPA’s decision to not act on the waiver request was that “it would not be fair to the other teams and schools if she were allowed to play.”

“We’ve heard directly or indirectly from eight, 10, 12 coaches, and every single one of them are in favor of her playing,” Campanella said.

“I certainly would have overturned the rule,” Capetta said. “I just don’t see any sense in denying someone a sport that they otherwise would be able to play.”

Campanella’s situation is not unique. In addition to Islesboro’s Cook, Pine Tree Academy senior Krishna Patel will go through high school without playing on a boys’ tennis team.


Portland girls’ coach Bonnie Moran empathizes with Campanella being shut out from the team aspect of high school tennis. When she was a teenager, her family moved from New Jersey to the Bonny Eagle school district. The Scots’ did not have a girls’ tennis team. In the pre-Title IX years, she was barred from playing on the boys’ team.

“I had no one to play with. I have enormous sympathy for any person wanting to be able to play for a team,” Moran said.

Moran worries that the long-term effect of schools forming cooperative teams will result in an unintended effect.

“The schools that don’t promote tennis may not put in the effort to promote the sport,” Moran said. “I see it shrinking. If you combine two or three schools into one team, then you’re actually shrinking the opportunities.”

Kevin Campanella disagrees with Moran’s concern.

“Without the ability to form cooperative teams, I think the alternative is that neither Wells nor Kennebunk has a team because of declining numbers,” he said. “One team is better than none.”


For Rosemary Campanella, her freshman season will be a waiting game – waiting for the classification rule to change, waiting for an occasional match, and waiting for a new cooperative team that will allow her to have the full team-sport experience.

She does plan to compete in the state singles tournament.

“I’m really glad that we at least got this (issue) out there and that people are aware of it,” Campanella said. “It just puts stuff in perspective and how some things aren’t fair, and they need to be fixed.”


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