The sport that shaped a star, or a star that shaped a sport

By Isabella Hurley

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Author’s note: Chiara Di Salvo, (tennis coach at Georgia Walton Academy) is a self-made success story. Her moving story enlightened me to what can come to be out of hard work and it inspired me to tell her tale so others can be just as astounded as I was.

Di Salvo, tennis coach at George Walton Academy. Contributed photo

Chiara Di Salvo moved to America from Argentina on a tennis scholarship after dazzling Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) with her academics and achievements in the sport that made her who she is today. It was tennis that gave her countless opportunities, but how she acquired them and what she learned to get them is what truly is amazing.

“I started playing when I was just about to turn 9,” Di Salvo said. “Our parents wanted us (she and her sister) to play a different sport than gymnastics.”

Di Salvo said they chose tennis on the recommendation of a friend who told them all the benefits of tennis, including opportunities for travel, meeting people and the high level of competition. When she turned 10, Di Salvo began playing in tournaments.

“When I was 13 I decided not to put tennis before school, but it became a priority for me,” she said.

At a very young age Di Salvo realized her potential and said that was when she decided to utilize it and work for something big.

“I realized turning pro would require so much money, sponsors, and time, and my country doesn`t help at all… so my goal just was keep trying with tennis, but getting a full scholarship in the United States,” she said.

Di Salvo said growing up around the sport of tennis helped shape her values, such as “respect, for sure, discipline, which was very important, sportsmanship, and friendship because I gained so much friendship while I was traveling,” she said, adding that these values still influence her life today.

“A lot,” she said. “They helped me go through my college career, which in the beginning was really hard because I was in a different country and I needed to respect my teammates and coaches and do whatever they were telling me to do. Sometimes this was hard in the beginning because I didn`t speak the language [English]. I didn’t always want to wake up at 6 a.m. for practice, and the discipline that I gained travelling and having to wake up really early helped me”

The sportsmanship also was an important lesson to learn, Di Salvo said.

“You can not be cheating or anything like that while on the court,” Di Salvo said. “When I see that I have to teach kids in academy or whoever I`m working with, I try to teach them the same way I was [taught].”

Di Salvo said she wants to share the lessons that she learned when she was young and continues to use today. She wants people, especially young children, to follow her footsteps in the good character she exhibits. She devotes herself to teaching those values, including the hard work that it took to get to her to where she is, which she said she only puts at 30 percent talent. She said the other 70 percent comes from hard work.

“Hard work is when you don`t have all of your energy, overcoming [adversities], when you want to stop and give up, going to practice when it is -6 degrees Celsius, or when you don`t want to go to practice because you are tired [and despite] all of that, still going. Hard work is overcoming your desire to stop and practice even when you may not want to, because in the long run, that is what will make all of the difference,” she said.

But it was also the sacrifice of her parents, Di Salvo said, who gave up so much time, money and energy for her and her sister to play tennis – that was hard work for them too. She said the key to success is “perseverance.” She gave the following advice to young people who may want something great for themselves, but don’t seem to have the drive necessary to reach their goals.

“I would tell them that if you’re healthy and they have all of the requirements needed to succeed, [they shouldn`t] even think about making excuses, or not trying, because there are so many people who don`t have what they have, like money of whatever they would need to succeed,” she said, going on to say that even if you are in a tough situation, or not the most talented, hard work can help you achieve your dreams. She said when she was little, she had to find a way to get what she needed, like working for her coach in exchange for free lessons.

Hard work got Chiara Di Salvo where she is today, not talent, not luck, and hard work gave her opportunities many can never even imagine. Tennis taught her that hard work can get you places, and she hopes to carry on that message to her future students in the many years to come.

Isabella Hurley, George Walton Academy

Isabella Hurley is a junior at George Walton Academy and a Journalism Explorer with Your Local News. 

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