Even now as I take a time out from reading up on adaptive tennis, hoping that we can do something with the Special Olympics, and to have both high school and college kids in this area work with me and others as assistants, helping the special needs tennis folks, and having their college and work applications stand out by doing good; I recall just yesterday a lady at a school where the socio-economic disadvantaged, English as a second language, and of course special needs kids abound. She said, “You could teach here and be a hero.”
“No, not a hero, just doing what has to be done.”
You see, forget the thousands of children taught, coached, mentored, tutored, and worked with. It was the dual doctoral degrees earned at the University of Oahu in BB and TB that I am most proud of. I am not a hero I am sad to say; I was and am a tennis bum and a beach bum. Forget the tears in my eyes when the kids I coached at Special Olympics won medals by themselves and for our team, helping me to my most cherished possession in tennis ever: my silver medal in the unified doubles. We had to get silver, as we were playing against a parent-child team that I had coached-the balancing act of getting to the tie-break and just losing by a point or two-you say soldiers don’t cry? I cried when every single kid got their medal, and I couldn’t get my partner his gold, as silver was the right thing for the coach to do.
And what crazy person takes out 10-12 years of their life, right in the middle of it, to coach and tutor their own child? Of course I worked in conjunction with the schools like Sacred Hearts, Waikiki, and handed her off to Iolani (she picked her school). Her coaching was done by Mid-Pac coaches, the USTA, and great players from Italy and Slovakia who could be professionals if they chose it. That was passion that you heard when my voice rose above the din when she didn’t give 100%. But, the father-daughter relationship is one where when it was time to hand her over to the school that fathered the modern Chinese leader, I am now just there in spirit if she needs me.
I am no hero. Just a guy that is wrapping up his stint at the courts and the beach, to now teach and coach special needs folks again. This time the certifications, doctoral work, collaborations and elbow grease will run through the kid, the classroom, the school, the neighborhood, the district, the state, the country, and the world. But, above all else, the kid. The kid in the classroom, the kid on the court.
And that is why at 4:45 a.m. on a Saturday, besides writing this pat on the back and admonishment for bumming too long, I read about special needs tennis, read about special needs and neuroscience, read about how technology can do good for special needs, and look at the latest special education pedagogy.
All the hero needs is coffee and the kids!