Maintaining a competitive high school tennis team on this small island is a challenge. Everyone on Molokai already knows this and now the rest of the tennis world knows it as well.
Last year history was made when Pono Chow and Kamanu Pascua took the Maui Interscholastic League title in doubles, the first time a Molokai has won a league title. The team built on its momentum from last year by matching last year’s 7-1 record.
Although the team did not win an MIL title this year, it did receive the attention of Tennis Magazine. A story titled “The Grass Courts of Molokai” features the tennis team and the adversity it faces as the players and coaches attempt to develop the sport here.
Of course Molokai has no grass courts. The headline comes from Molokai team coach Pono Asano who made a joke out of the grass that pokes through the concrete courts at Molokai High School. After Asano told the CEO of Tennis Magazine George Mackin about the status of the tennis team, Mackin then wrote the story on tennis.com that has raised awareness and created a chain reaction.
The story then fell into the lap of 1985 Lahaina Luna state doubles champion, Bruce Silva. After receiving a tennis scholarship, Silva attended Portland University and became a doubles partner to Mike Dowse who recently became the president of Wilson Sporting Goods. As a result, Dowse graciously blessed the team with several cases of tennis balls and strings for racquets.
Another person deserving recognition is Wailuku CPA Shaun Thayer, a former MIL tennis player. Thayer donated strings, grommets and five tennis racquets from his collection. In the comments on the bottom of the tennis.com story, Thayer wrote, “I remember playing against Molokai in the MIL and they have always displayed good sportsmanship.”
In his story, Mackin notes that Molokai has only two community courts and the players do not own new racquets and have a limited supply of balls and strings. But the impression Mackin was left with was “the pure joy, passion, team building, dedication, and togetherness that these kids bring.”
The story brought more than strings and tennis balls. Asano announced that last Friday the team received a $750 grant from Kahiau Tennis Foundation to sponsor the very first junior tennis workshop here on Molokai. “This will definitely help get equipment into the community which will inspire them to play tennis,” wrote Asano, “This is awesome!”