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Greater El Paso Tennis Assoc.

1 Tennis West Lane

El Paso, Tx.  79932

(915) 532-5524



A Chat with GEPTA

August 19, 2013 12:41 AM


A Chat with GEPTA

Not goodbye but good luck to GEPTA Great Roger Spain as he prepares to move to LA.

GEPTA: Roger you have been a part of GEPTA USTA League tennis for a number of years. What are some of your favorite moments from playing league tennis?
Roger: Overall, I have enjoyed the camaraderie and the competition involved in USTA league tennis. I've had some terrific teammates, formed some good friendships, and have played on some quality teams. My best memories are of playing on four different 4.0 teams. Two of those teams (captained by Tom Hernandez and Joe Esparza respectively) made it to Nationals. The third team (captained by Dennis McElveen) won the local men's 4.0 title this year and will be playing Sectionals in Albuquerque in early August. We're hoping to make a good showing there and earn our right to represent the Southwest Section at Nationals later this year. The fourth team (also captained by Dennis McElveen) won the local Men's Over 40 league this season, won at Southwest Sectionals, and will be competing at Nationals in Indian Wells in October. I guess those teams stand out to me and have left a lasting impression because they were strong teams that competed well at a very high level. It's a real honor to make it to the Sectional/National level. Those who play league tennis know that getting there is no easy task. I'm proud of the fact that I've been a part of some great teams that were able to make it to "the promised land." 
GEPTA: How long have you been playing league tennis?
Roger: I started playing USTA league tennis in the fall of 2006, so I've been involved in league play for about six or seven years. My first taste of league tennis was at the 3.5 level. I played on a team that ultimately won the local league that year and went on to compete at Sectionals in 2007. We didn't win at Sectionals, but the whole experience of playing locally and at Sectionals really got me hooked on league tennis. I've been playing it ever since.
GEPTA: Why or whom got you started playing tennis?
Roger: The first time I ever picked up a racquet must have been when I was nine or ten years old. My grandmother lived in Midland, Texas, and we would occasionally go visit her. She lived in an apartment complex and had an old (I guess it wasn't "old" at the time) wooden racquet and a few cans of tennis balls. I got bored one day and decided to go out into the parking lot and hit a few balls up against one of the complex's brick walls. Something about it appealed to me, and I spent hours out there in the parking lot batting balls against the wall. I really didn't know the first thing about tennis; I just enjoyed hitting that ball. I think somewhere in my ten year old mind I actually thought I could beat the wall. Of course, I never did; the wall always won, but I enjoyed the competition. When I think about it now, it's a wonder that somebody didn't come out there and run me off; somebody's apartment was obviously on the other side of that wall, and it must've driven them crazy to hear me banging that ball against that wall for hours on end.
In terms of really playing tennis, however, it was my dad who got me involved in the sport. He'd been playing recreationally and competitively for a few years, and when we moved from El Paso to San Angelo, Texas around 1980, he and my mom enrolled my sister and me in group lessons for beginner kids. The summer program was sponsored by the local Parks and Recreation Department, and we would meet for lessons at a local park on Saturday mornings -- a bunch of hyper kids out there running around with little clue as to what we were doing. A couple of college kids who played for the Angelo State tennis team were in charge of instructing us. I actually did pretty well, and after the first lesson, one of the instructors approached my dad. The instructor said I had some natural talent (little did he know of the wall in Midland) and offered to give me private lessons. With the help of that instructor and his private lessons as well as hitting with and getting instruction from my dad, I became a pretty good player and began playing competitively. I fell in love with the game and, with the exception of a fifteen year hiatus, have been playing ever since. Real tennis for me began in San Angelo and with my dad's encouragement and mentoring.
GEPTA: El Paso to Los Angeles is a major change. Why now and why L.A.?
Roger: Yeah, big change! I'm both excited and a bit apprehensive about the move. Change is always a little scary, but I'm looking forward to the new opportunities and adventures that await me. I think it's probably a good thing to scare oneself a little bit from time to time.
My dad passed away last year, so now (in terms of family) it's just me and my mom here in El Paso. The rest of my small family (sister and her family as well as my son) live out in L.A. So, that's probably the biggest reason for the move. My mom and I love El Paso and will always consider it "home," but in reality there is very little keeping us here. We look forward to being closer to and spending more time with our other family members. I think it will be good for both myself and my mom to get a fresh start in a new place and to be amongst family.
GEPTA: Will you continue to play tennis once you make the move and more importantly will you continue to play USTA League tennis?
Roger: Absolutely on both counts. I think I'll always play tennis as long as I am physically able to do so; I love the game. I am very interested in and excited about the USTA League opportunities out in Los Angeles. While I'll definitely miss the El Paso and Southwest tennis scene, I'm really looking forward to competing with and against new faces in a new place. A little curious to see how I'll stack up against the SoCal 4.0 players. Should be interesting and will hopefully be fun.
GEPTA: You have been one of the top players in El Paso for a number of years Roger. What drives you to compete and improve your game?
Roger: I appreciate the compliment; it really means a lot to me. In a word: WINNING! I am an ultra-competitive person, and I absolutely hate losing. If I'm going to do something -- anything -- I'm damn sure going to try to be the best at it. Period. I may not be the best, but I'll die trying to be. If I'm going to play tennis, I want to be good at it, and I want to win. In order to win, you've got to work on your game, so ... being a good player and winning are my primary motivation. Tennis is fun, and I do enjoy playing, but that's not why I play. The most important things about the sport to me are competing at a high level and winning.
GEPTA: Is the "other Roger" your favorite player?
Roger: Yes he is! And it's not just because his parents have such excellent taste in first names either. I find the "other Rog" so appealing not only because of his beautiful game, but more importantly because he has been able to stay on top or at least near the top for such an extended period of time. That's incredibly tough to do, and I really respect him for being able to maintain his standing in the world of professional tennis for so many years. He is a man who doesn't rest on his laurels (and who could blame him if he did?) but continues to work hard and strive for more. His dedication to his craft is something I greatly admire. I also like Federer's grace. He is a graceful player (on court; in terms of his game), but he also shows great personal grace as well. He's the greatest of all time (in my opinion), but he doesn't seem to be arrogant about it. He seems modest and classy. I like that. Nothing worse than someone who is great at something and knows it -- goes around making sure everyone else knows it too. That's a real turn-off.
GEPTA: How has tennis influenced your life?
Roger: That's not an easy question to answer because the game has truly had such a profound impact on my life in so many different ways. First and formost I would have to say that tennis helped forge a stronger bond between me and my dad than would have otherwise existed had tennis not been a part of my life. That's certainly not to say that tennis was the only bond we had, but it definitely strengthened that father/son connection. As I said, my dad was my teacher, my mentor, and my biggest supporter both on and off the court. Tennis is something we had together and something we will always share. It's impossible for me to think of tennis and not think of my dad.

The game of tennis also has so many parallels to life off the court as well. Tennis has taught me a great deal about life and how one should live it. The game has taught me (amongst other things) that there is no substitute for hard work and that hard work, commitment, and determination pay huge dividends to those who practice those virtues. It has taught me that mental toughness is the biggest factor in determining one's success. Mental strength always trumps physical strength; it is also much more difficult to attain, but the rewards are that much sweeter. Tennis has taught me to be gracious in victory and in defeat and has taught me to never quit -- to never give up, no matter what life may throw at me.

I'm certainly not saying that I have mastered all of these elements or virtues, either on or off the court, but tennis has instructed me and made me aware that these things are vital to success in both games -- tennis and life.      
GEPTA: You have made a huge impact not only on the tennis community but also in the lives of the students you have come across as a teacher in the Gadsden ISD. What did you enjoy about teaching so much and what will you miss the most.
Roger: Thank you. What I enjoyed the most about teaching at Gadsden High School is what I'll miss the most, and that's the kids -- my students.  The respect, support, and love I've received from those kids over the years has truly changed my life; I'm a better man for having had the honor and privilege of being their teacher. I don't exaggerate in the least when I say that I love them and will always carry the memory of my students and my seventeen year career at G.H.S. in my heart.

I am not the world's greatest teacher, but I am very passionate about what I do. I love literature and words -- reading and writing. I think the kids (and people in general) recognize and appreciate that passion and respond favorably to it. When people see that you truly care about what you're doing, they tend to care about it too. Nothing worse than someone who just goes through the motions but doesn't really care. I cared, and that made all the difference in my teacher/student relationships and in my career. Being good or bad at something is not the end-all-be-all; it's the passion with which you live and act that really means the most, at least in my book. I think that went a long way in helping me build a successful teaching career and in connecting with my students.