My brain Tennis vs Covid


By Emilio Sánchez Vicario, Founder & CEO of Sanchez-Casal Academy

I am Emilio Sanchez. I am 55 years old. In the eighties and nineties, I competed at a pretty good level and even won some Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic medals. After that professional stage, I coached tennis players individually as well, such as Davis Cup teams. I combined my work as a coach with founding my own Tennis Academies, both in Spain and the USA, where students could take advantage of opportunities that tennis and education providers. I also shared my knowledge on TV and created my own Foundation, “Fundación Emilio Sánchez Vicario”, to help children achieve a better life through tennis.

My zodiac sign is Gemini, and for those who know us, we are thinkers, we are unpredictable, we love people and we care for them. We also have a very curious ability: our mind works, every night, in a way capable of creating little movies that we then translate into reality the next day.

So, I see my life divided into stages: 8 years before dedicated to tennis, 10 years developing myself as a tennis player, 14 years working as a professional tennis player, and 20 years coaching. It was probably a normal evolution, until last year when Covid arrived.

Now, I can say I am 55, or better, I am 54 plus “1 Covid year”, because Covid changed everything for me. I have always loved tennis, but since the virus came into our lives, many more people came back to tennis, up to 4 million new players! Isn’t it amazing? Tennis has given me many things in life: it has built my character; it has made me competitive, resilient, a fighter, and a committed person. And, in these difficult days, my sport has given me hope, drive, and the strength to move forward. I couldn’t be more grateful for tennis. Until now, I did not really know how important tennis was to me, but thanks to this past year, I can say I am who I am thanks to tennis and thanks to the way tennis has taught me to accept mistakes, defeats, and losses.

Thus, in my mind, the last 365 days had two versions: the “day” version with my passion and romance with tennis and the “night” version, with Covid and the fear that surrounded it. I mean “C19 guy” appeared in so many different colors, voices, actions, and situations and all of them aimed at destroying my brain. The Coronavirus hosted each of those 365 nights, and I played 365 matches against it. Luckily, when the next morning arrived, tennis offered me another story, becoming my partner to face up the situation. And I am not complaining about it, but I have lived with it so closely for such a long time that despite it is now, part of me, Tennis has had a much bigger impact on my life than Covid.

The past year, I have been working with the best juniors in our Academy, and that has been another of my big challenges. Some of them committed to great universities, others are still waiting to be accepted. But the high demand that the process required, helped me to get extra motivation. I love these kids.

During this time, I also decided to start doing events and since last fall we have been organizing tournaments non-stop, holding lots of UTR, USTA, and ITF events. My team has done an outstanding job, they are so good that we became the UTR Club of the Year 2020, and we were also named the number one academy in the world. We have been the first academy to host USTA Pro Circuit events during the Covid times, and we have hosted those events, strictly complying to all regulations, testings, and controls to avoid Covid. I can’t be more grateful to my team.

2020 has been an “eye-opener” year for me. I  have been lucky to live in the USA, and especially in Florida, where I can play tennis every day, I can be with my family, and of course deal with all the regulations of the virus, but still live. I am so grateful to the USA that I cannot express in words how much I admire this country and the way they face adversity.

Every day, my stories with the students, rackets, and balls fulfill my soul and give my mind enough materials to face my movie and stories at night. But then, the next day, tennis took its place and triggered this amazing mental reaction thanks to which I was able to forget the night before, renewing my hope, drive, energy, and a special state to face whatever I was doing, coaching, organizing or managing. I am so thankful!

As you can see, I am a dreamer and I try to get my student-athletes to also dream, dream big, learn to handle adversity so they can write their own stories, and hopefully, one day they may see my sport as their ally to become the best version of themselves.  Tennis also gives them the tools to continue to grow and brings us together. I love to dedicate my time to these student-athletes, to watch matches, to workout with them, and to create this amazing bond with tennis. I know that one day in the future, they will remember this journey and they will think that all the effort was worth it. For me, it is like that.

My Academy in Florida is spectacular, we have amazing facilities, but If I had to choose only one of our strengths, I would choose my team, a group of dedicated professionals who care about the student-athletes, who live for them, giving their best to help the student-athletes to become what they want to become. It is inspiring to have such an amazing staff. I thank the kids, the staff, friends, and family for creating real stories far more powerful than the ones the VIRUS used to create in my mind each of those 365 nights. Congrats to all of them and see you at ASC, playing tennis as always!

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Emilio Sánchez Vicario
Founder and CEO of Sanchez-Casal Academy

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