This is part two of a five-part series about tennis in your community, where we will recognize the contributions of several individuals who are funneling their passion for tennis into growing the sport in their own communities across the country.
Tennis has always been a part of Matin Bahadori’s life. As a child in Iran, he played at a competitive level including at the Asian Junior Tennis Championships. Later moving to the United States and then Vancouver 15 years ago, Bahadori calls tennis ‘the most constant thing I’ve done in my life’.
An engineer by trade with a lifelong passion for tennis, Bahadori is the community champion for the Building Tennis Communities (BTC) program in Vancouver and its surrounding areas. He has been working for about four years now alongside partners like Tennis BC to bring tennis to schools, after-school programs and community centres, with a focus on impoverished neighborhoods.
Among the programs he has run are Le Petit Tennis, learn to play, and though his focus is on children from the ages of six to 12, he has even done adult programs in community centres. One of the keys for him in succeeding has been understanding his community needs and working with organizations in the area.
Plans for the future: “I know one of our major focuses in Canada is to have more participants in tennis and for the long run. So one of my biggest focuses for this year is to create leagues, and through league play we can definitely sustain programs and increase the number of participants.”
Proudest accomplishment: “What I’m most proud of is giving children a different set of skills. All in all, in teaching tennis for the past few years, what I have learned is one of the biggest things I can give to children is activity – having fun and enjoying their time while playing tennis, but also at the same time I really focus on giving them life lessons as well.”
A piece of advice: “One of the biggest things I can tell every single coach is when you go into a class or you’re teaching, make sure you know children’s names. That makes a big difference. That has been my ticket in succeeding. It is super simple, knowing children’s names, but then you engage them more and you have more of those magical moments.”
Empowering teachers with knowledge of tennis
Bahadori also knows that he can’t do it alone, and believes strongly in providing educators the information they need to prompt them to introduce tennis in classrooms and gymnasiums. Through a program with the University of British Columbia, Bahadori has helped train over 400 teachers entering the workforce on the benefits of tennis.
“We’re giving them a basic knowledge of tennis with an understanding of how tennis is in line with everything that school boards across Canada are focusing on,” he said. “We’re giving them the knowledge that if you teach tennis components, it all falls into physical literacy as well as long-term athlete development.”
Last year he helped run a pilot project in Surrey that brought tennis into schools and not only taught the students, but the teachers as well. This way, the teachers could ultimately run the programs. The project ultimately produced what he calls one of his favourite moments – a jamboree with more than 600 students from five different schools all playing tennis and having fun.
“Above and beyond everything, one of the things I really believe in is that to spread the passion for this game, we need to have more educators,” he said. “It is through them that we can reach out to more children and spread the love of this game.”
“The passion I have for this game is just for the fact that you can play it at any age, the health aspects of the game and also the life skills I have gathered and that I’m hoping I can pass onto children as well.”