Respire Haiti Tennis Club began in January 2015, with a handful of donated Walmart rackets and a sack of cheap tennis balls, on our mountaintop in Gressier, Haiti. We spray-painted tennis lines onto a concrete slab and draped a torn soccer goal across two sticks to create a makeshift net. At one point, we had nearly 60 children who waited in a single file line for close to 10 minutes before they got their chance to hit a few balls and return to the back of line. Every child came in flip flops and tattered shorts or jeans, so they would play barefooted to avoid breaking their ankles.
In 2016, a year after hosting practices, we created a team of 30 children and became registered with the Haitian Tennis Federation. Over the years, Respire Haiti Tennis Club has become a well-recognized and highly respected club throughout all of Haiti. Today, we have about 50 kids in our program (ages 4-15), some of which have experienced a great deal of success on the court. Last year, one of our players finished with a #1 National Ranking in the U12 Boys division, and another player finished #2 in the country in the U12 Girls division. Respire Haiti Tennis Club also boasts 2018 U14 Clay Court National Champion. We also have a handful of U10 players developing rather quickly.
We’ve even had one of our boys selected to represent Haiti on the U14 Junior National Team. In addition to their on-court play, words can’t describe how much these kids have grown off the tennis court. Some of the most shy and timid kids have become the most confident and outspoken leaders. Some of our biggest troublemakers have shown marked improvement in areas of discipline, respect, and humility. This is why we do what we do. Not every child is going to be a tennis super star, but our hope and goal is that the Respire Haiti Tennis Club builds leaders who will raise up future leaders.