Sairisheeth’s Journey in Creating FCSN Tennis Camp

Written by: Claire Lin, FCSN Voices Youth Reporter

Graphics by: Kaavya Saini, FCSN Voices Graphic Artist 

“When I first found out about FCSN, I wanted to bring something I was passionate about to this special community,” FCSN Tennis Program Founder Sairisheeth Venkat said. Sairisheeth learned about FCSN when he was searching for volunteer opportunities online and was fascinated by the close-knit community and numerous opportunities offered by the organization to help special needs individuals. 

When he discovered he could teach guitar through the SN Tutoring Program, Sairisheeth immediately signed up, hoping to contribute his talents to FCSN. From his guitar lessons, Sairisheeth gained experience interacting with special needs students, learning how to best cater lessons to each individual’s level and how to help each person overcome challenges encountered. For example, to help his student concentrate in their guitar lessons together, Sairisheeth would focus on music they like and design lessons around their interests. 

In the summer of 2022, after volunteering at FCSN for a little over a year, Sairisheeth decided to take his involvement a step further and initiated a tennis program to share his passion with the community. After getting positive feedback on the idea from Linmei Chiao, the Director of FCSN Volunteer Support Department, he set out to create the program. He contacted many local tennis courts before finally selecting those near Mission San Jose High School, which had the most openings. He also recruited a fellow tennis friend to be the other coach.

On September 9, the tennis program officially launched. At first, Sairisheeth was a little nervous as he had never taught tennis to special needs individuals before. After working with the students on basics for a few sessions, he “felt more confident in his understanding of how to best teach them.” He and his partner coach realized that playing tennis not only improves the students’ motor skills, but also provides great opportunities for the students to practice communication and social skills. For example, when playing doubles (2 players vs. 2 players), the students would have to work together to coordinate a successful match on the court.

With any new student, Sairisheeth tries different teaching methods and observes to see which method the student responds the best to. Mentoring students from all tennis levels, both coaches typically start with the basics to help the student understand and get comfortable working with tennis balls. Then, they move on to teaching different strokes, starting with simple forehand strokes to more difficult backhand strokes. Students usually start with half court to refine their techniques and then progress to the whole court. In this program, progressions are usually slow and tailored to each student’s needs. Furthermore, during the lesson, the parents come up with ways to exercise as well, either playing tennis, jumping rope, or throwing frisbees. “I think [the parents] have as much fun as their kids,” Linmei said.

Sairisheeth teaching his students tennis at the MSJ tennis courts. 

Sairisheeth’s ultimate goal is to help the students “enjoy the sport and just have fun interacting with one another.” Both coaches try their best to provide the attention and support needed for each individual. Parents of the students have expressed their gratitude to the coaches for “promoting physical fitness and providing the students with a fun and engaging activity to participate in” as well as “helping to boost their self-esteem and confidence.”

From teaching tennis and guitar at FCSN, Sairisheeth has learned patience and got a better understanding of the neurodiverse community. Everyone, regardless of their abilities, can learn as long as they can find the right method that matches their learning styles. With respect, encouragement, and genuine friends, special needs individuals can participate and enjoy community activities like everyone else. 

Currently, the tennis program takes place once a week on the Mission San Jose High School tennis courts at 3:45 PM. In the future, Sairisheeth hopes that the program will grow to include even more coaches, students, and locations. 

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