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Grace Yonehara



Children: Hope, 14; Skye, 11

Photo of Grace Yonehara and family
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Tell us your own story of what makes tennis a special part of your life.

Tennis means more family time. In this day and age, everyone is so busy and can get caught up in the daily rut of work and school and all of the children’s extracurricular activities. Tennis has become quite the daily family activity for us. It has not only brought our family closer but our neighbors and community, as well. We now often just call people up for an unscheduled play day. We text our friends and say, “Going down to the courts. Join us if you can.”


Tennis is truly a lifetime sport you can start at any age. My mother-in-law started playing tennis in her 30s. She’s in her 70s now and in great shape. She plays tennis almost every day and is even in a senior league. My sister-in-law also played tennis growing up.


My mother-in-law is the one who sparked the interest in both of my daughters. She signed them up several years ago in the USTA Play to Learn classes at the district park. We exposed our daughters to a variety of sports, but ultimately they gravitated to tennis once again when they were about 9 and 13.


Since both my daughters displayed interest in the game, they eventually joined Junior Team Tennis. Because they were playing competitively, I started thinking that I should learn the game myself. Thus, I signed up in my 40s for USTA adult tennis lessons at Ala Moana District Park. I convinced my best friend and a couple other friends to join me, and we have been having a blast.


Of course, my husband started playing tennis in his 40s, as well, in order to be able to hit with our daughters. Now the entire family is playing tennis! We see improvement every day and always get into a friendly game of competition. The kids love the “parents vs. kids” matches.


Tennis has been about connecting family and community. We are so thankful to have been introduced to this sport. I, myself, am a testament that you can start tennis at any age and play throughout your lifetime.


How long have you and your daughters been playing tennis?

My daughters, Hope and Skye, took a few USTA Play to Learn classes probably when they were about 6 and 8 years of age. They took a little break, and then my younger daughter, Skye, started up around the age of 9 again and then more competitively at age 10. My older daughter started playing more competitively at age 13 and even played on her intermediate school tennis team. I started playing in my 40s. Tennis is truly a lifetime sport. It’s never too late to start. I’m a true testament to that belief.


Why do you think it’s important for your kids to play tennis?

Tennis is a group and individual sport. You can join Junior Team Tennis and also enter tournaments. Tennis has taught my children to be responsible and accountable. It is mentally challenging. Since I am not there on the tennis courts with them, they have to be independent and accountable for their own decisions. They have to learn to handle themselves on the court, to act in a respectable manner and to respect their teammates and opponents.


What is your most memorable tennis moment regarding your children?

Life is full of challenges, and my stories have to do with losses. There are two incredible moments with my daughter, Hope. Hope has only been playing tennis competitively on a team for less than a year. She played her first singles game in intermediate tennis, and she lost in a tiebreaker. The game was over an hour long, but Hope persevered and fought back hard. Another was when she played singles against the top school in Hawaii, and she lost, 8-0. I was so proud of her for how hard she played. Hope never gave up and kept fighting until the end. We have created so many wonderful family memories because of tennis.

What has tennis taught you about you and your kids?

Tennis has taught us about working hard and never giving up. It is about hard work, perseverance and character development and dealing with both wins and losses with grace. It is important to teach your children good sportsmanship. Win with humility, and lose with grace and dignity.


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