On their way to recently being named the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) 2011 Tennis On Campus National Club of the Year, Lone Star College-CyFair’s Tennis Team has found friendship and community service to be the key to success.
LSC-CyFair players say they are proud and honored to have earned the national title, particularly since they are a community college team competing against clubs at four-year universities.
“Being a community college campus, people have a tendency to just go from the parking lot to the classroom and back to the parking lot,” said Jimmy Nguyen, LSC-CyFair’s team captain. “Everything for us is voluntary and yet we still get people to come out and play tennis. We have people from all levels of play (ex-varsity high school players, Special Olympic athletes and even some beginners) all out on our courts playing and practicing three times a week together.”
However, Nguyen said the national title is really a testament of how great their team is off court and his teammates agree.
“It truly is an honor to receive this award because it shows the depth of our passion to give back to our community,” said Anna Juaneza, who plans to teach after earning a bachelor’s of science in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown. “We may not be able to give much, but we will always try to touch as many lives as we can through our community service.”
Among the team’s community service outreach efforts this year alone, just to name a few, were:
• introduced tennis to Lieder Elementary (a Title 1 school) students and wheelchair tennis to Iraq/Afghanistan veterans
• hosted tennis clinics, demos and/or tournaments for the Cy-Fair and Houston community as well as Special Olympians
• sponsored a National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) family and participated in a holiday Angel Tree program as well as a food drive benefitting Cypress Assistance Ministries
• donated tennis balls for a pet shelter, NJTL program, Hearthstone Assisted Living Center and an elementary school
• continued their participation in Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure, Habitat for Humanity and adopt-a-highway program
Ryan Song, a transfer student and future mechanical engineer, said his favorite community service effort was outreach done with Special Olympic Texas.
“Many people never realize that Special Olympians have the ability to master a sport too; unfortunately, most of them are isolated by society and never have chance to practice with someone,” said Song, one of several players certified as a Special Olympics tennis coach. “I enjoy every minute I am playing tennis with those Olympians. The biggest reward for me is the smiles on their faces.”
Hillary Kern said the team’s community outreach covers a wide area of interest and touch many lives. One she liked in particular was the two-day effort at Lieder Elementary, a Title I school in Cy-Fair. She and other team members had fun introducing tennis to 320 fourth- and fifth-grade students, some of whom were learning-disabled.
“We become more accepting of others by using our talents to make the world a better place,” said Kern, who is currently taking classes at LSC-CyFair for fun. “I love to play tennis and this is a way to make friends.”
Many friendships have been made on LSC-CyFair’s team and those bonds of friendship are evident in all they do on and off the court.
“Whether it’s helping each other with our game or studies, I have the confidence in my team that all I have to do is ask and someone will always step up to help,” said Juaneza. “As a team we also love to socialize together. Spending time together off the court is just as important to us as showing each other support on the court.”
So if there isn’t a match or tournament some Friday or weekend, Nguyen said there will be phone calls and text messages sent around to make plans from game nights at each other’s houses, eating pizza, hot dogs or whatever, to getting everyone to go see a movie.
“Friendship builds a strong team. We’re far from being the best team skill wise, but our players share special bonds and trust with each other,” said Nguyen, an accounting student at the University of Houston-Downtown, who also takes classes at LSC-CyFair for fun. “Being there at tournaments and matches with your friends, you can be competitive, relaxed and having fun all at the same time.”
One of the biggest challenges to overcome for LSC-CyFair’s players and their coach, Tim Sebesta, is keeping the program growing. At a commuter community college such as LSC-CyFair, players typically stay for two years before they move on to a four-year college or university. Some players, like Juaneza and Nguyen, opt to continue taking courses at LSC-CyFair to remain on the team longer. Of course the team also recruits new players, including some students taking tennis for credit who can achieve a Service Learning designation on their official transcripts.
However, Sebesta said a major catalyst for the continued growth of the LSC-CyFair Tennis Team, which began with approximately 20 players in 2004 and had 56 players this academic year, is the USTA Tennis on Campus program.
“Our team’s primary goal is to introduce tennis to a wide variety of populations and to grow the game of tennis in the Houston area,” Sebesta said. “We also believe in giving back to the community that gives so much to us. The underserved and populations in need are near and dear to our program.”
LSC-CyFair Tennis Team’s community service outreach efforts have been recognized before when USTA-Texas Section named them the Club of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011. Along with this year’s National Club of the Year Award, which was presented in April in North Carolina at the USTA National Campus Championship awards banquet, the LSC-CyFair Tennis Team received an automatic bid to compete again in the April national championship tournament. Last year, they won the copper division at the national tournament in Surprise, Arizona.
For information on being part of this award-winning LSC-CyFair Tennis Team, contact Sebesta at Tim.R.Sebesta@LoneStar.edu or 281.290.3918.