Taysi Says Kindness Counts
Sharon Taysi – nominee and winner of the USTA Missouri Valley Sportsmanship Award for August – says sportsmanship is about being fair and kind.
Yet, we have all been there: we have a run-in with an opponent who has trouble calling lines when the match becomes tight; or the competitor with a calm demeanor away from tennis is yelling and screaming the second their racquet strikes that yellow ball.
Taysi has played tennis for 40 years – or long enough to have seen nearly every kind of opponent personality there is. For her, however, kindness rules the day no matter what.
“Tennis is a great way to meet people,” she said. “I have met some of the kindest people on the tennis court. I try to be the same person on and off the tennis court, but there are some people who are completely different people when they play. Then they get off the court and change.”
When Taysi saw pro Chris Evert play tennis in the 1980s she knew she had found her sport. Evert’s calm presence on the court earned her the nickname, “Ice Princess.” Taysi loved Evert’s focus and her great groundstrokes.
Though Evert’s groundstrokes attracted her to the game, Taysi is fond of a sneaky lob when opponents least expect it. Alternatively, if an opponent is living on the baseline, she will fire off a mean drop shot. Kindness does cancel out competitiveness.
As the years have passed, Taysi has been fortunate to play with people on her side who have her coming back. She currently plays in the USTA St. Louis 18+ League with Annette Harris’ 4.0 team.
“I play to get exercise and interact with people. It keeps me active and social the same time.”
Taysi believes tennis should be for all. In years past, she has assisted in organizing the Love Wins tournament, held annually to raise money for Pride St. Louis. One of the unique aspects of the tournament is that it is gender-neutral – meaning you enter the tournament and you will be paired with players based upon UTR ratings.
“Players and fans can sponsor teams and win money if the team wins. It is a lot of fun. Scott Stinson is the real initiator of the whole thing. I am now back to teaching full-time, coming out of a three-year retirement, so I am passing the baton.”
This fall, Taysi returns to the classroom as a middle school science teacher for the St. Louis Public Schools.
Tennis also resulted in a love connection for Taysi. At a local tennis club, Sharon Rasp was taking lessons with a pro, while Burak Taysi was taking lessons with another pro at the same club. The two pros were looking to form a team. Sharon agreed to play.
“I told them, ‘I will play tennis with him and that’s it.’ I remember saying that specifically,” she said.
Another mixed doubles pair on the team were already together. That couple eventually threw the engagement party for the future Taysi’s.
Unfortunately, jobs, kids and life in general makes it difficult for the couple to play together often. Nevertheless, the pair will always have that story.
Taysi continues to play a few times a week – and is able to travel to tournaments. In 2019, she and doubles partner Judy Wagner won the consolation round of the 55+ Division of the National Senior Games Albuquerque, N.M. The team barely missed the medal round. Taysi said she is proud of the accomplishment because after a heartbreaking loss to miss that medal round, she and Wagner just kept winning matches.
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