Nepali Times
Game Point
Tennis and life lessons


One of the perks of being a coach is the chance to be a role model for kids. Studies have shown that besides parents, coaches and teachers have the most influence in a young people's life. I have always embraced opportunities to help and give direction to youngsters. This past winter break, a young Nepali boy came to spend two weeks with me. I was touched by his innocence and moved by his determination to make the most out of his time in the US. Here is an essay he wrote after his time with me and my family:

My name is Utsav Rijal and I am a tennis player from Nepal studying at Luther College, USA. This past Christmas, I had the opportunity to visit and train with Coach Sujay Lama. Being a Nepali and studying in the same college Coach Lama did, it was a valuable experience to meet my 39-year-old compatriot. I had a chance to relate to him and learn the things that he had experienced as a college tennis player and a student. Training with Coach Lama was not only rewarding but it was also an eye opener towards life, discipline, and hard work.

Everyday we would start our training with three hours of tennis. We would focus on intensity and dynamic footwork on the court. We did a lot of match play to build confidence and work on the tactical aspects of the game. To finish off practice, coach Lama would make me do line drills on court for efficient footwork and speed.

We worked on our conditioning in the evening by running for about half an hour. As Coach Lama put it, "Tennis is a game that requires you to be supremely fit to make you mentally tough." Sometimes he would drop me at a street about two miles from his home and ask me to run back in the blistering cold to gain
the mental edge.

We ended our day with 30 minutes of workout which involved stretching, abdominal work, push ups, sit ups, and shoulder stabilisation exercises. Coach Lama is innovative in how he trains his athletes.

"Tennis players need to be disciplined" says Coach Lama. He maintains that discipline is very important, not only in tennis but also in life, including proper sleep and eating habits. "Early birds catch the worms" he says.

On court he was a tennis coach and off-court he was a brother to me. During my stay, we not only talked about tennis but also about life. He made me feel like a friend and we did not hesitate to share our stories and experiences. Blessed with a six-year-old daughter, a two-year-old son, and a wonderful wife, Coach Lama is a model father and husband. Coach Lama always gave me positive reinforcement.

He is passionate about the game of tennis and helping young Nepali players like me. As far as my improvement goes, my endurance, mental toughness, and physical fitness were all up. I learnt lessons for life, which will help me become a good human being, a good student, and a good tennis player. I am thankful to have a mentor like coach Lama.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)