Sventeen years ago, I left Nepal to pursue a dream of playing college tennis in America. It has been one heck of a ride.
I have been blessed to have this opportunity and would like to share my story and try to help promote the sport of tennis in Nepal.
My earliest memories of tennis are following my brothers to the HIT Centre which was a five-court tennis club my father built in the mid-seventies. Saturday was the big day at the tennis centre which was located near the airport. It was my favourite day because there were a lot of interesting people from all over the world playing tennis and having fun. My father (Hem Lama) and my two brothers (Vijay and Raj) were my role models and it was very easy for me to pick up the game watching them play.
What I liked most about tennis was the feel of the ball on the strings of my racket and the fact that there were so many elements to master, such as the technical, tactical, physical and mental aspects of the game. Very early on I realised that I had some talent and that I loved to compete. I remember quite vividly my dreams of becoming national champion, winning a gold medal at the Asian Games and playing at Wimbledon.
I trained intensely in Germany with my brother Raj. The biggest lesson he taught me was the importance of mental and physical discipline. I soon became the number one player in Nepal and qualified for Junior Wimbledon and played the Asian Games in Beijing. Although my game had improved, my confidence took a hit at the international competitions.
The big breakthrough came one day when I was training with some elite German players. We were running up and down a steep hill a few times and half way through the run I started to overlap the competition. From that point on I realised that the most important thing was self-belief. My tennis soared when I came to the States. I won many tournaments was named two time All American and was inducted to the Luther College Athletic Hall of Fame. I never would have accomplished this if not for the love, encouragement and sacrifices my family made for me. They inspired me all along and I did not want to let them and my country down.
I have been able to take that confidence into the next phase of my life. In the last 13 years, I have been coaching players of various skill levels at the junior, professional and college ranks. I have enjoyed coaching because it is extremely rewarding to see young people realise their potential. I am a teacher and that means I have the privilege of being a role model and showing the great lessons the game of tennis has to offer. Whether it is coaching a professional at the grand slams such as Wimbledon or working on stroke mechanics with one of the girls on my team at the University of Illinois, I have been able to do it with a lot of passion. I believe in PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) and that is why I have been very successful. Every thing I do as a coach and as a person, PMA is the foundation of it all.
I look forward to this opportunity to write a tennis column every fortnight from here in Champaign, Illinois for Nepali Times.
I would love your feedback and suggestions. [email protected]
Sujay Lama's tennis column, Game Point, will alternate with Deepak Acharya's golf column, Tee Time, in this space every week.