By Kathy Kemper – 11/07/08 05:01 AM ET
Nov. 4, 2008 was certainly an historic day, but not just for politics.
The first annual Junior Ambassadors Tennis Cup held its finals, right here in Washington, at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center.
Eight countries had 14-and-under boys and girls in the draws: the U.S., France, Italy, Venezuela, Japan, Czech Republic, Canada and Kazakhstan.
The scores of the two singles finals were:
Johnathon Gonzales, Venezuela, def. Yuki Muramatsu, Japan, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Natalie Novako, Czech Republic, def. Kamila Pavelkova, Czech Republic, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
But why was this tournament different from any other kids’ competition?
It was different because it was not just about tennis. It was about a Philosophy of “Sport and Attitude,” instilling in young competitors the importance of fair play, sportsmanship, respect and solidarity with our world community. It was about educating for responsible world citizenship.
When they weren’t on the court, UNESCO provided workshops for the players to learn about critical world issues such as cultural diversity, sustainable development and human rights.
The players were housed in homes by families from the Washington International School (I am a trustee). Both the families and international student/players shared in appreciating each other’s family customs.
The tournament’s founders, Jacques and Dorrie Laurent, believe that creating an environment of international understanding, cross-cultural education, sportsmanlike conduct and athletic excellence for these young athletes offers “an enriching experience” in which “they learn to not just focus on tennis but on life, other people, their customs and their diversity.”
When asked if children who compete internationally develop a better appreciation of national customs around the world, Jacques agreed, noting that “young athletes who compete internationally develop an open mind. In order for an athlete to reach a high level of competition, he has to be curious by nature. His entourage, his family and coach, should encourage him to be even more curious about the world.”
Further elaborating on the relationship between tennis and international awareness, he continued, explaining, “On the court, the players observe each other and analyze their opponents from a tactical, strategic and technical point of view in order to improve their game. When they travel to different countries and cultures to compete, this same curiosity helps them have a better understanding of others and the rest of the world.”
When asked about the role of attitude and sportsmanship in becoming a world citizen, the tournament founder said, “Having a ‘fair play’ attitude teaches young athletes that life isn’t about winning at all costs. It’s nice to be a champion in your sport, but it’s even better to be a champion in your life. If they learn about respect and dignity early on, today’s young champions will become better citizens of the world. They will be leaders in every sense of the word.”