Winning a tennis match isn't the only competition Kathy Kim thrives from. Kim gets an adrenaline rush from rising before the sun sets and teaching others the game of tennis.
For the past 35 years, Kim has been teaching tennis at the Hickory Foundation YMCA after never setting foot on a tennis court in her life.
It was Kim’s three kids and the need for more teachers at the YMCA that brought her into the world of tennis.
“When we moved (to Hickory), there wasn’t a program for beginners to continue,” Kim said. “Tennis is something I started doing because someone needed help, and it’s something I’ve been doing ever since.”
After reading about the sport from an encyclopedia and gaining support from her family, Kim began teaching.
“I still love what I do,” Kim said when asked if retirement was in sight.
And every day, Kim displays her passion for tennis and dedication for sharing it with the community.
A typical day
“Normally, I wake up around 5 a.m., sometimes 4:30 a.m., and I have my own exercise program at home for one hour,” Kim said.
After working out, Kim cooks lunch for her husband, Dr. T.S. Kim, and she sets off for a long day at the YMCA.
“I am (at the YMCA) by 7:30 a.m. and practice with some of the kids that show up early,” Kim said.
During the summer, the first session of beginners and low-intermediate players, begins at 8:45 a.m.
Once majority of the players arrive for the first class, Kim warms the students up with stretches, then splits them into groups depending on the number of teachers she has helping her.
“This summer we have great teachers,” Kim said. “There’s Rhonda Davis, Nick Miller and Jebrille Walls.”
Once the children are organized, Kim and the other teachers drill the students on the basic tennis strokes: serves, volleys, forehands and backhands. Kim will also play tennis games, such as doghouse, jailbreak, college and bus ride.
By 10:20 a.m., the first group begins to shuffle out, and the second group of tennis players arrives. This group consists mostly of middle school and advanced players.
Once again, Kim reinforces proper tennis form on the basic strokes and has the participants play games. The students also practice match play.
“They play for about two hours, sometimes more,” Kim said. “I stay until they get picked up, which is usually around 1:30 p.m.”
Finally by 1:30 p.m., when all the players at the YMCA go home, Kim gets to go home to enjoy lunch, maybe sneak in a nap, work on household chores and complete paperwork.
“I love summer tennis,” Kim said. “These summer classes have been wonderful. They are showing good work ethic; they are motivated; (and) they are just a good group — even the little kids.”
However, even after 1:30 p.m., Kim isn’t done teaching.
On Monday nights, she helps coordinate and teach a 2.5 league; on Tuesday nights, she teaches an adult beginner team; and on Saturday mornings, and sometimes Sunday afternoon, Kim gives lessons to a 3.0 team.
“I do lots of organizing,” Kim said. “I help (USTA) teams get (courts to play on) and make sure teams have enough players; the captains take it from there.”
This past spring, Kim helped organize 13 United States Tennis Association teams along with her the other tennis groups she teaches.
“I am like a traffic cop: I organize — my family would die laughing, they would say, ‘She organizes?’ — when (USTA) teams practice, the travel teams and round robins,” Kim said.
If Kim isn’t teaching or organizing tennis, she is watching tennis. On Wednesday nights, she is watching her 3.0 league team play; on Thursday nights, she is watching her 2.5 league team play; and she even comes to watch some of her younger kids play tournaments on the weekends.
More than tennis
Learning tennis teaches more than how to be a good player, but also teaches how to be a better person, Kim said.
“Tennis is a good sport,” Kim said. “The players learn about winning, losing and themselves. Playing sports makes them a well-rounded person because they learn sportsmanship, how to set goals and keep healthy.”
Though Kim enjoys watching the sport, more so, she enjoys watching how the sport affects the player.
“It’s most rewarding to see them grow,” Kim said. “I love seeing how they mature and become good citizens.”
Finally, after a full day of teaching, organizing and watching tennis, Kim calls it a day by 8:30 p.m., no matter what, she emphasized.