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Spreading the Aloha in Surprise

October 8, 2016 08:44 PM

By Shaylee Souza, special to USTA.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. – Sounds of heavy breathing, quick footsteps and the popping noise of a tennis ball hitting the court filled the air at the USTA League Adult 18 & Over 3.0 National Championships at the Surprise T&R Complex. But one thing you won’t hear, at least from the Hawaii Pacific Section team, however, is bad sportsmanship.

“From the moment I walked onto the court, I could tell that she was a very friendly opponent,” said Kristen Kolpek, who played against the Hawaii Pacific Section team on Saturday morning. “The mood and the energy was amazing. You could tell we were both comfortable.”

Tournament officials give out pins to those who are recognized by other players for their good sportsmanship. The winning individuals may exhibit fair line calling or give compliments to their opponents.

The Hawaii Pacific team, comprised of eight women from around the Islands, has impressed with their on-court demeanor. A few of them, including doubles player Genie Nagata, have already earned a sportsmanship pin.

“You just have to spread the Aloha,” said Nagata (pictured above). “Fun is first, and winning is second, and I know that when I don’t have an opponent who’s nice to me, I don’t have fun.”

Nagata, who lives in the Hilo area, has always believed in being a kind person to others. The concept of treating others with respect is something she was taught at a young age, but behaving that way is something that comes naturally to her.

The Hawaii native has experienced bad behavior on the court, but it was another situation where her sportsmanship was evident. In a match in which her opponents were not behaving fairly, Nagata found a way to stay positive and happy.

“I was fine with it,” said Nagata. “I always just brush it off because that’s just who they are and you have to have fun, anyway.”

That mentality has only strengthened through competing in USTA Leagues. Nagata, who works as a registered nurse, says she has seen major improvements in her ability to deal with difficult situations.

“It’s made me handle situations at work better,” said Nagata. “Handling employees has gotten easier because I am a little more positive through playing USTA Leagues so much. I’m just so excited to be here now.”