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A Big Friend in Tom Roach

February 25, 2008 04:11 PM

Tom Roach
At 61, Tom Roach is enjoying the benefits of retirement – well, as much as he truly can.  An adventurist at heart, Tom retired as an Air Force civilian eight years ago, yet already has a road trip around the United States to his name.  He hasn’t quite shaken the urge to just “sit still,” as he says, which may explain how he walked away with five bronze and one silver medal at the January 2008 South Florida Senior Olympic Games.  Add mentor and an after-school tennis provider to his name, and you now have a gentleman who truly knows how to make the most out of life.

When Tom moved to Florida just two years ago to the retirement community Century Village in Pembroke Pines, he quickly became involved with Listen to Children, a mentoring program for children through the Broward County Health Department.  Currently, there are around 225 Listen to Children mentors in Broward County who listen, play games, draw, talk to and get children to come out of their shells.

“A lot of these kids have a hard time making friends,” said Tom.  “That is what we are trying to be for them – just a big friend.”

A big friend is what Tom is to a lot of children, including the two he mentors through Listen to Children and the 30 he teaches during a USTA after-school tennis program at an elementary school in Miramar.  Tom teaches the tennis class at Miramar City Park across from the school two days a week for an hour each.  Michelle and Ralph Estenoz have two sons in the program and assist Tom during practice.  With the help of USTA Florida North Region 8 Community Coordinator, Cheryl Rivera, the USTA after-school tennis program has grown from 5 to 30 kids, and now has the proper modified equipment (provided by Wilson) for the children to hit with.

“I hope the kids are having fun and challenging themselves when they play tennis,” said Tom.  “I try to emphasize to the kids how important it is to have a positive attitude, exercise and find a sport like tennis that they can play everyday.”

Tom is a model for the teachings he advocates.  At the 2008 South Florida Senior Olympic Games in January, he competed in eight events and medaled in six - including men’s tennis (singles), 100 meter dash, long jump, discus, shot put and table tennis (singles and doubles).  He loves the thrill of competition and admits to sometimes racing his tennis kids and grandchildren off the courts just to keep his mind and body young.

“I believe that when you work hard, and put your mind to something you can accomplish anything,” he said. 

Tom started playing tennis 24 years ago when he met his wife in college.  She had taken tennis as part of her physical education curriculum and after they got married, tennis was an integral part of their lives.  Shockingly, Tom said he wasn’t always a supporter of the game back then.

“I thought it was a sissy game at first, but now here I am playing every day!”

Playing everyday is what he’ll continue to do until the Florida Senior Games State Championships, Dec. 6-14, 2008 in Lee County and the City of Cape Coral.  If he advances, he’ll head to the National Senior Games, Aug. 1 - 15, 2009 in Palo Alto, Calif.

“When competing in track and field in high school, I thought the pinnacle of success would be to make the Olympics which I did not, but when I heard of the Florida Senior Olympics I was really excited," said Tom, who is now a second year veteran of the Senior Olympic Games.  “It is important for all of us to keep dreaming because it gives you something to live for and shoot for.”
Perhaps even more admirable than playing tennis, riding bikes with his wife Janice, swimming, lifting weights and flying airplanes for 30 years, is that Tom’s accomplishments and reach are quite endless.  He not only inspires  people who one day hope to emulate his active lifestyle at 61 years old, but he connects with the next generation of youth by simply teaching them a game we all love to play – tennis.  He’s passed on his passion for the game to his nine children and 11 grandchildren, and believes that exercise is something everyone should incorporate into their daily lives.

“For me, it is as important as breathing and eating,” he said.






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