Oscar Alcantar wants to make sure that every underprivileged child at lakeside who chooses to can take tennis lessons – and he is doing just that.
Alcantar is director of the Escuela de Tennis in Chapala’s Cristiania Park. What started as a passion for tennis at a young age has turned into a mission.
“I didn’t like soccer. Golf was okay but it was boring,” he says. “My brother and I started playing tennis when my dad was resting between games. I thought, this is what I like, this is what I want.”
Before the tennis courts opened at Cristiania Park, Alcantar and his friends played at Chula Vista’s Hotel Real. “The men would play golf and a group of kids would play tennis. I was around 15 years old when the courts in the Cristiania Park finally opened.”
When tennis pro Federico Partida moved to Chapala from Mazatlan, he started to work with the tennis players to set up tournaments and teach.
“Federico was my first regular teacher, my mentor and my inspiration. With him, I started going to Guadalajara for tournaments. In my first tournament I got to the semi-finals.”
Alcantar then met an American tennis player who urged him to enter more tournaments.
“He gave me a good racket and also paid for me to take lessons from a Mexican pro tennis player who lived in the United States, who came to Chapala for one week to teach. All these things helped me to become a better player.”
In 1995, Alcantar took time off from tennis to attend college in Guadalajara, then spent five years as a Catholic missionary. In 2002, he moved back to Chapala, where he resumed his active tennis life and opened a business selling school uniforms and kids’ clothes.
Alcantar started organizing tournaments for the players at Cristiania park. When asked if he would fill in for the tennis teacher who had broken his arm, Alcantar said he would, but not as a volunteer. “I was newly married and needed the money,” he says.
At first his offer was declined, but he later began his teaching role, charging each student ten pesos a class.
Alcantar’s classes soon began to grow and the academy now has three teachers and 55 kids, ranging from 4 to 18 years old, some of whom partake in monthly tournaments in Guadalajara.
Although Alcantar has five sponsors who help kids pay for their lessons, he needs more to help with tournaments and equipment.
“As we’re growing, we have more needs. I have to think about the next steps. I realize that I need to organize fundraisers. I really want to see these kids playing tennis.”
Besides leading an active tennis life, Alcantar is a junior high school teacher, a school counselor at an elementary school, and the father of two children. “I think about what I want to do and I’m not sure how I’m going to combine everything. Right now, I am too busy.
“In 2005, I had the idea to run this academy when I thought about the people who have no money to pay for tennis lessons; the people of the town who don’t like other sports and now have tennis as another option. I can now see that the doors to scholarship opportunities are opening for kids with no money and who want to be tennis pros ... This was my vision 12 years ago and now I can see that it is happening, so I don’t want to stop.”