Hawaii team member focuses on the ball
© Juan Ocampo/USTA
By Ron Cioffi, USTA Southern
“I’d rather have a team of friends than a team of strong players. Friends support each other,” said Franklin Chee, coach of the Hawaii women’s team playing at the USTA League Presented by Chrysler 2.5 Adult Women’s National Championships in Las Vegas.
“It’s all about having fun. I look for [team] members who can work together and have fun together. Strokes are secondary to having fun,” said Chee, who has been to Nationals five times as a player. “A team of ace players will be fighting each other.”
Chee, with his wife, Vicky, teach tennis at Ala Moana Park, a 10-court public facility, on the island of Oahu. Vicky, who has also been to Nationals five times as a player encouraged Franklin to put the 2.5 team together.
“Our job is to get them interested in tennis and then put them in a league. It’s the first year playing for these women. They don’t belong to any one club but to public courts around the island. I call them the ‘Street Fighters,” said Chee.
Captain Kathy Kaya talked about the mental fortitude Chee taught the players. “He told us, ‘No matter what, no one should get discouraged. There is always a chance to come back.’ He taught us a lot about strategy. He trained us to play as if we were behind and how to have a tennis mindset to keep fighting. We were down 0-2 in our league but we came back to finish 8-2.”
Chee knew this team was destined for Nationals. When the team competed at Sectionals, the coach didn’t attend. “I already got my reservations for Las Vegas.”
The team practiced three times a week, often in hot weather to train for Nevada’s desert conditions. “The ball will fly in the dry air. You’ve got to hit with more topspin,” was the coach’s instruction.
Stressing the importance of commitment to the team, Chee told the team at the start of the season to focus on improving and to put aside enough cash for the trip to the mainland.
Accompanying the team to Las Vegas is “team mom” Pat Saiki, best known for her two terms as U.S. Congresswoman from 1989-1992 and a member of President George H. Bush’s administration and served in the state legislature for 14 years than as an accomplished tennis player and proud parent.
“Tennis is in my family,” Saiki said. “My dad was the coach of the high school team and my brother was a competitive player. I played for many, many years.”
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