Hawaiian Teachers-Turned-Tennis Players

April 15, 2011 04:30 PM
The Hawaii women take a team photo at the 2010 USTA League 6.0 & 8.0 Super Senior National Championships in Surprise, Ariz.
By Courtney Williams
Surprise, Ariz.—A team of teachers-turned-tennis players is representing the big island of Hawaii at the 2010 USTA League Super Senior National Championships this weekend.

Five teachers make up the team of seven from all over Hawaii, including Kona, Waimea, Laupahoehoe and Milolii. 

"It’s difficult for us to play together because we live all over the big island of Hawaii.  We drive up to 75 miles to play together, so we only get to practice together about once a month," says co-captain Connie Yoshiyama

When the Seasiders – who are making their first national championship appearance –are not swinging their rackets on the tennis court, several of them are educating children in the classroom. 

Caroline Goff is a resource teacher and coached high school tennis for 25 years.  She enjoys playing with this group of ladies. 

Goff says, "The camaraderie of the team is amazing even though we don’t play together often.  We have a great coach, a great captain and a great place to play so we are really fortunate."

The team is a focused bunch, but they aren’t afraid to take a break to observe the sea life Hawaii has to offer. 

"Where we practice at Mauna Kea, the humpback whales come down from Alaska every year, and we have to stop practicing to whale-watch," says Kathy Lindsey, pre-school teacher and former elementary school tennis coach.

"Sometimes it’s distracting practicing right by the ocean.  We live there, but we still admire the view.  It definitely helps us against our opponents because we are used to the gorgeous view, but they can’t focus on the court, " jokes Laura Sasaki-Kirihara, retired elementary school teacher.
"I love seeing the a-ha moments with kids.  It is so rewarding to see their reaction when they finally get something," Sasaki-Kirihara says of her experience in the classroom.  "I love working with underprivileged kids; I want to encourage them and help them recognize their skills and talents."  

Along with teaching, Sasaki-Kirihara has been playing tennis for over 30 years.
"I love playing tennis; most of the team started playing to get together with friends.  Everyone is so nice, and we really get along," says Sasaki-Kirihara.  

Bev Dawson spends time educating patients as a nurse at a private clinic, and co-captain Connie Yoshiyama, retired elementary school teacher, currently works with high school girls to improve their game. 

"The coach of the high school team in Hilo asked me to drills the girls who get cut from the team so they will keep playing tennis and hopefully make the team next year," says Yoshiyama.

The Seasiders have impacted countless lives in the classroom and on the court.  They are hoping to take a national championship back to Hawaii.
Click here for more news & photos from the 2010 USTA League 6.0 & 8.0 Super Senior National Championship.