Jose Calderon: A Lesson in Perseverance
2010 Recipient of the Pancho Gonzalez College Scholarship
Please enjoy this essay written by Jose Calderon from the USTA Northern California section. Jose was a recipient of the Pancho Gonzalez College Scholarship in 2010, for which this essay was written. Jose currently attends California State University, Fresno and is studying engineering.
More Than Just a Game
Let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Jose Angel Calderon. I am currently a senior at Sunnyside high school in Fresno, California. I have been in tennis for seven years now. For the first two years I learned by just watching people play at the park. I would go the park every day and play for hours. I usually would hit with random people I saw playing at the park. Many times I would be the only tennis player in the park so I would hit the wall. The wall was a great hitting partner; it really helped a lot.
In 8th grade I joined the tennis team at school. I was number one that year. I also led my school to a league title and won the boys single’s title. I was so proud of myself that day and still remember getting home and showing my parents my trophy. I was very let down as I saw how little they cared. My parents have never really cared much about me playing tennis. They have always told me that tennis is just a waste of time and that it’s only for the rich. Sometimes I wished they would care and go out and watch me play and support me. It would be nice to have somebody cheer for me once. I have probably played well over 50 tournaments and well over 100 matches and sadly, I have never had any family support –not ever- not even one point.
After 8th grade I wanted to take my game to the next level. So I got the yellow pages and looked for local tennis clubs. They were all so expensive except for one called “Dan Gamels”. The head pro, Mike Pearson, gave me the chance to play there for free! Without him I would have never got anywhere. He understood my situation and saw the passion I have for tennis. I couldn’t be happier. I play tennis as much as I could and learned as much as I could. I have played there for two years. I improved so much like the right way to hit every stroke. I even started to play local USTA tournaments. I didn’t do so well at the beginning, but soon after I reached as high as 56 in NorCal boy’s 16.
During my junior year in high school I led my school team to 2nd place and top four in the valley. I won the league championship individually in singles. I qualified for valley and was seed 13th and made it to the round of 16 and loss to the 4th seed. I was spotlighted in the Fresno Bee for being 2nd team in the entire valley. I was very happy to make it that far, both as a team and individually.
After a successful junior year I was happy, but not satisfied. I trained every day after the season was over to make sure I was ready for my senior year. I wanted to accomplish two things: win valley as a team and win individually. So far this year I led my team to a league title with a perfect record of 10-0. I am one of the few Hispanics to over win a league title. This year still not over and we are in the semi’s in the valley play off’s as well as individually in the round of 16.
Looking back at everything, I am a very lucky and blessed person to be in the situation I am today. Growing up in a working class neighborhood and not having much support made it very difficult for me, but I learned that if you really want something you can accomplish it. The sky is the limit! That’s what I think Pancho Gonzalez and I have in common. We didn’t grow up with luxuries and we didn’t start tennis at the age of five like most professionals. He was a great athlete that grew up poor and didn’t get private training at the beginning, but made up for it with ‘the want’ and also had the heart and passion for the game. That’s my situation. I beat a lot of players just by want to win more. When you go through so many difficulties and face so many obstacles, it helps you get stronger and helps you focus on your passion- the eye of the tiger. This is just the beginning. I plan to play college tennis and see how far tennis takes me.