OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The joy of coaching is helping one Bryan High School teacher connect and help minority students feel included.
"It was the first time I had seen more minorities coming to play, specifically Hispanic players, and I think that is because they saw me playing and they were like, oh, Hispanics do play tennis,' said Ricardo Hernandez, Tennis Coach at Bryan Middle School.
Hernandez teaches boys and girls tennis. He also teaches his athletes skills they can use on and off the court.
"I always tell them, this is chess and not checkers, so you may make an adjustment in your game and that means they are going to make an adjustment in their game and you are constantly adjusting back and forth," added Hernandez.
He said he has seen his students become more confident as athletes and as individuals as well as becoming more responsible.
Tennis team member, Julio Silva said "Communication and respecting each other, in the end, that is what matters."
Former team member AJ Membreno, comes back to stay connected and help out new players with tips and advice.
"If I had not done tennis in high school I would not have been organized, outgoing and more organized in my job," he said.
The relationship the students form doesn't go away once they graduate.
"The best thing I learned about playing with the team was the bond that we had and fun times. We learned from each other and worked to uplift each other," added Membreno.
"I am trying to teach them to be a student of the game and I am always quizzing them, they are thinking, 'I am not in school,' but I am teaching them that life is like that — constant problem solving," continued Hernandez.
And whether they win or lose, Hernandez said he enjoys both as each match has a lesson to be learned.
There aren't any tennis courts on the school premises. They have the land but not the money to build courts, so the team practices at local parks.
They do have yearly fundraisers and accept donations year-round towards building courts and to pay for indoor court rentals during the winter.
For more about the team or to donate, send Coach Hernandez an email at Ricardo.Hernandez@ops.org