by Gabriela Chaves
I don’t remember my grandfather, but he made an impact on me that I’m surrounded with every day.
He was the first man to bring tennis to my home city.
My grandfather, Eudoro Chaves, owned a tennis academy, and it was the first one ever built in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. He was one of the first people to hand a trophy to Gustavo Kuerten, known as “Guga,” a Brazilian tennis player who reached No. 1 in the world in 2000. My grandfather died when I was just 1 year old, but his academy has stayed in the family.
As an athlete in school, I always loved volleyball but didn’t quite feel like it was the sport for me. I wanted a sport in which only I could control the result of the game. A sport in which only I could win or lose. So with the family connection, it was only natural that my father suggested tennis.
The moment I put my feet on the clay and hit that first ball, I knew tennis was my passion.
It all started when I was about 8-years-old at the family tennis academy. I began with one-on-one classes. It was just me on the court, and that’s the way I liked it. Then, one week, another young girl missed her class and asked to join me.
That’s when I realized how much more fun it is when someone is by your side.
From that day forward, I began playing in group classes, and I loved it. But I also loved working on my own game.
I knew we were all good but not good enough to be professionals. When I turned 16 I knew I had two options: either quit playing and focus on going to college, or go to the only place in the world that allows you to keep playing the sport you love and focus on your study at the same time: the United States.
I began working with a Brazilian company that helps athletes come to the US and we started the process. The company took care of all of the documents. All I had to do was make a video of me playing and saying my name in English (and of course take the SAT and the TOEFL). All of a sudden coaches from around the United States began sending me emails.
Through all of the messages, one email caught my attention. It was in Goldey-Beacom College in Delaware. I had never heard of it, but I saw it was right between New York and Washington D.C. Most importantly, the team was entirely international. There were girls from Russia, Venezuela, Spain and Brazil.
I felt that having an international team would help me adapt, the girls would know exactly what I was feeling being away from home. It would make it all better. Being an only child and leaving your home for the first time is not an easy thing to do, and I knew I would need some support. Being part of a team was amazing, but being able to be on court was liberating. All of the problems I had disappeared at the moment I would start hitting the ball. Tennis at that time was what kept me strong on my decision of studying abroad.
As a graduate student I am not able to play tennis for college anymore. Due to some injuries I am going to have to stay away from the sport for a while. I am graduating this year with an MBA. I have a concentration in Marketing and my goal is to stay in the United States for at least two more years. I really want to work with indirect marketing, advertising campaigns, marketing planning, digital marketing. If I could associate that to tennis and work with both at the same time it would be perfect. As for playing tennis, I hope I can start playing without any pain soon.