Humans of Harker: Gary Tsai improves his game through coaching


Melissa Kwan

“Frankly, I’m not a tennis star,” Gary Tsai (12) said. “I not nationally ranked or anything, so sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve to be a coach. I often feel embarrassed when I miss a shot as I hit with students, but surprisingly, they still come back the next time and cheerfully talk to me about school, tennis, or whatever. I recently remembered that my first coach was never a pro player or anything, but he was still extremely helpful to a beginner like I was, so in a way, that’s the type of coach I want to be. I sometimes wish I, myself, could actually follow through on the advice I give others, so I can improve my own gameplay on the court. But then again, as long as my students continuously get better, then I’m satisfied at the end of the day.”

by Alex Wang, Opinion Editor

When most people go searching for a job, they go through a process involving looking for job openings, attending interviews, and a variety of other steps. However, for Gary Tsai (12), the job search was a little more spontaneous.

“I got into coaching tennis because my long-time coach once urgently asked me if I could come help him out at the courts because one of the other coaches had an emergency,” Gary said. “So I went there a couple of times voluntarily until my coach officially offered me a job as a part-time coach.”

Coaching younger players alongside his own coach, Gary’s job is an interesting juxtaposition of the roles of student and coach.

“The people I coach with are all adults, so I don’t exactly have any of my high school friends coaching with me,” Gary said. “However, sometimes other students who I used to play with help out when they’re on break from college.”

In fact, Gary’s role as a coach has actually helped him in his role as a player, as his work with helping his students improve their tennis has also improved his own ability to fix his mistakes.

“Because I’m constantly advising people on technique and strategy, whenever I mess up on a particular tennis stroke, I can easily pinpoint what needs to fixed,” he said. “It’s just a matter of execution at that point, which for me is the hardest part.”

Throughout his time as a coach, Gary has encountered many interesting students. Some have even reminded him of himself when he was younger.

“I have many little anecdotes that I have from coaching. I once coached these two boys in elementary school and whenever I gave them the targets to set up, they built so-called “empires” and “kingdoms” out of them,” Gary said. “It was great seeing them express their creativity in various ways, and it reminded me of myself when I was younger.”

Other students have displayed antics that have just been amusing to Gary.

“Another instance was fairly recent. I told my students that they couldn’t get water since I just gave them a water break, but a girl in middle school somehow had the exact temperatures from the past few days memorized, as well as the temperature of that day. She argued how the temperatures were in the sixties the previous day’s and how that day was an extraordinary 71 degrees, so they deserved water,” he said. “I don’t remember if I caved or not, but it was humorous to see the lengths students would go just for a few sips of water.”

Similarly to his college friends who return to coach every once in a while, Gary also hopes to return to his students whenever he has time.

“Just like many others who come back to coach when they’re on break from college, I would gladly come back and continue coaching when I can no longer come regularly,” he said.