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Peace Corps Volunteer Takes Tennis Abroad

May 11, 2009 09:42 AM

By: Tori Townsend

In June 2008, Rob Weiss of Fort Myers traveled approximately 8,450 miles to teach students at Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu, China as a Peace Corps volunteer. Located in the capital of Sichuan Province, about sixty miles south of the disastrous earthquake that struck Wenchuan County in May 2008, Weiss was assigned to teach students who will become future teachers at middle and high schools throughout China. Required to implement a secondary project in addition to teaching English for his two-year stint abroad, Weiss didn’t hesitate to take tennis overseas to share the inherent benefits of the sport with China’s youth.

“I thought that perhaps I could use this credential to my benefit as well as for the benefit of Chinese students who were physical education majors with an emphasis on tennis,” said Weiss, who completed his training as a certified recreational coach with USTA Florida and joined the USPTA in March 2008. “I believe tennis requires much more mind power than many other sports and it is also a confidence builder to the Chinese kids.”

Weiss started playing tennis at age six at the Fort Myers Racquet Club. In 1988 he worked at the Jimmy Connors Tennis Center at Sanibel Harbor, Fla. under Jak Beardsworth - elite coach, motivational speaker and author of “More Than Just the Strokes”. Back home in Fort Myers, Weiss plays regularly at Rutenberg Park.

“This is actually a good time to join the Peace Corps since the economy is not in great shape,” said Weiss, who joined the Peace Corps because it matched his educational background in international relations and foreign affairs. “They give you stipends to live on and you are constantly staying busy for a good cause.”

It hasn’t been easy for Weiss to implement tennis overseas as resources are limited and there are only two courts which are in bad shape.

“The night lights on the tennis court are basically rotted away, the tennis balls are a Chinese brand and are not long lasting and they don’t have any cones to set-up on court,” he said. “Given their limited resources, it’s difficult to integrate all the things I have learned [as a recreational coach] into their program.”

However, that hasn’t stopped Weiss from enjoying the experience and helping the students develop different aspects of the game. He teaches about the history of the game and famous players like Rod Laver and Andre Agassi.

“Hopefully, I can set a few students down a path to sporting greatness,” he said. “Even so, if I can have a positive impact on just one student’s performance, then I know I have accomplished something.”

Although ping-pong is the most popular sport in China, tennis is gaining popularity thanks to the efforts of Weiss and his firm belief that, “everything we do, we should do to better ourselves and other people in our lives.”


Rob Weiss (4th from right) and his students

 

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