I was playing tennis with my usual group the other day when a woman, with two daughters, asked if they could also play. We let them. We even had them play a game with a couple of brothers that we also play with.
They were obviously rusty. The older sister, wearing the Cebu City uniform, can surely play.
“Watch her form,” one of the guys said.
The younger sis had difficulty serving. It was her first time to play in almost a year.
“We just got her racket back,” the mom said.
I got to talk to the mom for a bit and learned we had common friends.
Her husband used to play for Fritz Tabura under the University of the Visayas.
“I know Fritz,” I told her. “Do you know John Pages?”
“Sir John?” She smiled. It turns out she used to work for Play Room at SM and after leaving, she returned and worked in one of the Pages Group’s restaurants. Her husband, too, knew John.
“My husband was John’s partner sometime ago.”
We also got to talk about her daughters. The older one, the one whose skills we were impressed with, just missed out on a Cviraa (Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association) stint, while the younger and nervous one was on the way to the Cviraa last year before Covid-19 hit.
She said she had enrolled at Banilad because not only is the principal supportive, most of the players there get scooped up by the schools that offer tennis scholarships.
Then, she told me, with pride, that some of the Banilad players, who were science class students at that, got to earn scholarships. I told her, that should be the goal for student athletes to earn scholarships.
That reminded me of other stories from mothers when I was on the tennis beat. They were hoping for scholarships.
And here’s the thing that I noticed. Students who qualify for a tennis scholarship are often good enough for an academic scholarship or only a shade from qualifying.
Unfortunately, like so many others, a bunch of public school students missed out on getting scholarships by getting recruited by universities in the Department of Education step-ladder tournament.
The big private universities are struggling to stay afloat too and last year, we learned that the first to suffer were the student athletes in the lesser-known programs. Some schools, even, were forced to drop their entire roster of student athletes.
As for tennis, we all know while it’s a popular weekend sport, it’s not a popular revenue generating sport for schools. To be honest, I won’t be surprised if, when the Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc. does restart its athletic program, tennis would be one of the sports that gets dropped.
But I hope it won’t happen.
It’s nice to dream about or to fantasize about being the next Alex Eala but I know the scores of tennis moms out there just want to be the next anonymous guy or gal who finished college thanks to a tennis scholarship. I know a few, including kababayans who are now successful professionals abroad, who’ve taken that route.
I hope, the next time I see that tennis mom, it won’t be because of an interrupted story. It would be for a story.
“We got a scholarship.”