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People in Your La Jolla Neighborhood: 3 local teens set out to share their love of tennis with younger kids

Olivia Wiese is part of a council that offers tennis programs and mentorship to underserved children.
Olivia Wiese, a senior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, is part of a council that offers tennis programs and mentorship to underserved children.
(Courtesy)

Three local high school students are game to share their love of tennis with others, providing mentoring to students through Youth Tennis San Diego, a nonprofit designed to bring tennis to children in underserved areas through an after-school program.

Jim Ji, Tyler Li and Olivia Wiese, all students at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, are members of YTSD’s Junior Player Council, made up of about 10 high school students who help support YTSD’s programs through community events and are set to participate in one Saturday, Oct. 17.

The event, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Barnes Tennis Center in Point Loma, will feature the council members volunteering with a group of elementary- and middle school-age children in tennis-related activities and introducing a mentorship program.

Olivia, a 17-year-old senior who lives in Point Loma, said the council expects about 40 kids to attend, spread over several tennis courts to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The event is designed for council members and the younger participants to “connect and build relationships that can last for a long time [and] help them along [in] their young tennis career,” Olivia said.

Jim Ji, a Bishop's sophomore, hopes to help younger students cultivate a love for tennis, as older students did for him.
Jim Ji, a Bishop’s School sophomore, says he hopes to help younger students cultivate a love for tennis, as older students did for him.
(Courtesy)

Jim, a 15-year-old sophomore who lives in La Jolla, said he’s looking forward to the event. “It’s a beginning for us,” he said, “where we can get to know the kids and begin to plan other events that fit specifically to their interests.”

He said the event aims to encourage those interested in tennis to learn to play.

The participants will be given equipment donated or paid for through monetary contributions. Jim created a crowdfunding page to help with equipment purchases, as well as to supply events with fliers or refreshments. The page is at bit.ly/ytsdgofundme.

The mentorship program is planned to pair each council member with a child for a year. “The council hopes to serve as positive role models to the kids and to use our own experiences to help guide them,” Olivia said.

Bishop's School freshman Tyler Li feels "tennis would be a really good way to … give back to my community.”
(Courtesy)

Tyler, 14, a freshman who also lives in La Jolla, joined the Junior Player Council to merge two of his passions. “I really like community service and I also play a lot of tennis every day,” he said. “I feel like tennis would be a really good way to … give back to my community.”

The YTSD after-school and mentorship programs help “make tennis better for everyone, make it a better experience,” Tyler said.

In a typical year, YTSD serves about 5,000 kids across 40 sites countywide.

Jim said joining the council was a way to pay forward the help he received early in his tennis practice. “When I was a lot younger, I didn’t really know anything about tennis,” he said. “It was the older kids who helped me find a coach, tell me how to train. Now, because tennis is such a big part of my life, I want to give back to the younger kids” in the same way.

“That’s my biggest motivation … to be a good role model,” he said.

Tyler said there are many benefits to playing tennis. “Tennis helps you be athletic, and it’s something I look forward to every day,” he said. “It helps you interact with other kids; you can make friends and have good relationships.”

To Olivia, “sports are really important just to clear your mind. I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned off court.”

Jim agreed, saying: “Tennis taught me a lot about hard work. If you don’t work hard, you’re not really going to succeed. That’s the biggest thing. You have to work hard to get what you want.”

For more information, visit barnestenniscenter.com/after-school-tennis.

— People in Your Neighborhood shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send an email to robert.vardon@lajollalight.com. ◆