In this bad news world, it’s good to do good

Past 1 p.m. last Thursday, four good people landed at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. They wore T-shirts and shorts, carried 11 oversize bags loaded with yellow Penn balls, and they each hand-carried a special gift for us: their big, warm smiles.

Elmer Dolera, Ted Sayrahder, Kevin Young, and Joy Riley are good. They’re so good that they flew thousands of miles from their homeland—the United States—to be with us. Here on vacation? On a business venture? Arrived to invade the dark, smoke-infested bars in search of topless girls? No. They’re good, remember?

These four good visitors landed in Cebu for a different swing: To teach tennis. Yes. Tennis. In the U.S., they’re what you call “tennis pros.” And they’re not just ordinary pros—they’re some of the best from the West to the East Coast.

Did they arrive to get paid green bucks? Thousands of dollars deposited in their bank accounts for this trip? No. They’re good, remember?

They came to Cebu on their own, without pay, leaving behind their spouses and children, losing hundreds of dollars of income during their several weeks-long stay here—to teach tennis, to share their expertise, to do good.

Isn’t that good? Yes, very good. No wonder they’re called the “Goodwill Tennis Tours.” Their objective is to promote friendship and closer ties between the U.S. and our country through tennis.

Elmer Dolera started it all back in 1999. A Filipino-American born and raised in California but whose parents originated from Tubigon, Bohol, Elmer had visited Cebu thrice before ’99 and, each time he arrived, longed for a project to help his native land.

Why not tennis? he asked. Why not import a top U.S. coach for a few weeks, find some local trainers, and mix them? Why not do good?

So Elmer contacted Ted Sayrahder, a USPTA P1 and USA High Performance Coach—one of the top in the whole of America—they flew together and, since 1999, have been back and forth several times and visited places like Boracay, Palawan, Bohol, and Iloilo.

Fast forward to last Thursday. The coaches arrived in Cebu after conducting workshops in Gingoog City, Butuan, Camuguin Island, Malaybalay, and Davao. But this time, instead of just Elmer and Ted, they invaded Cebu with two more top pros, Joy Riley and Kevin Young.

Kevin Young? Man, he’s good. He’s a good man. And, he’s a very, very good tennis coach. Back in Washington State, he runs a huge 12-court facility in Vancouver with hundreds of children and adult netters. His official title? Master RCW (Recreational Coaches Workshop) National Trainer—one of only six in the whole United States!

Good? Nah. Very, very good.

Joy Riley is a beauty. She stands over 5-foot-10 with long, flowing blonde hair and the body of a Steffi Graf. A varsity swimmer in college, she has since shifted to tennis and is an RCW National Trainer and PTR Pro.

What did the Goodwill Tennis Tours do? From Friday to Sunday last week, each morning from 8:30 to 11:30 they taught Cebu’s top coaches. Nearly 60 locals showed up wearing tennis shorts and tennis shoes and tennis rackets. They trooped to the Casino Espanol and joined the Recreational Coaches Workshop. On court, they danced, sprinted for bouncing balls, smacked forehands. They listened, laughed, learned.

In the afternoons, it was all-children. Twenty of Cebu’s best juniors participated—including names you read each week on this space: Sally Mae Siso (who, this year, is the youngest Cebu City Charter Day awardee), her brother Nino Siso, No.1 junior star Jacob Lagman, and 16-year-old champ Francis Largo. For over two hours each afternoon, they joined the Elite Juniors Program. They sprinted for drop shots, smashed lobs, and sweated enough sweat to transform the tennis court into a swimming pool.

I spent hours watching. What single lesson, in my opinion, did I learn most? Three letters: FUN.

Those three letters are the most important letters in the sports alphabet. Think about it. In golf, for example, what use is teaching a child the proper grip if she’s not having fun? In basketball, what use is teaching the behind-the-back dribble is he’s not smiling?

Fun, Fun, Fun. Coaches, remember that.

Back to Joy, Kevin, Ted and Elmer: these are good guys. Really good guys. They’re passionate. They laugh on court and dance with the children and jump for joy. They’re in love with tennis, with life, and, from what I’ve heard them say, with Cebu.

To you guys: Thank you… Salamat!

Categorized as Tennis
John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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