My big sister is one of my biggest inspirations and my role model in every aspect, including her athletic journey. She started playing tennis at the age of 6 and is now currently playing in the tennis team of her university in the United States. Being her little sister, I know all of the hard work she went through to reach that goal of playing in college and every key tournament that led her to where she is right now. During my whole childhood, we continuously traveled to the United States and to other places in America, so she could play for either Puerto Rico or individually.
It didn’t matter how far or how short the tournament was, she never traveled alone. We always traveled with her because the Matias are like a wolf pack. I was little when I started seeing how different families handle their athletes. It is hard because some parents enforce the training, the hard work, and not the fun, and at the end of the road chances are the athlete starts getting tired of it and doesn’t enjoy it. Our family was different.
I traveled to Memphis, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and much more with my famous backpack, but what made it fun was that the first half of the trip was the tournament and then whether my sister won or lost, we would take a small vacation. The vacation was not a reward for winning, it was a way to take advantage of the place we were visiting and to end the trip on a good note. My dad never said anything like “Win the tournament and we’ll go to Disney,” it was more like “Do your best and no matter what, we’ll have fun in the end”. It’s that type of attitude that has shaped me as a person. Not everything’s about winning, it was also about the journey we had, that special balance that is the reason she still enjoys the sport without regrets.
Most of the times we went to amusement parks close to where the tennis tournament was held. There was a tournament she played in Pennsylvania, where she admits it now, that she played pretty bad. One of those days where nothing wants to come out right and it hurts most that there was a college coach watching her game. It was clearly not her best tournament, but after she finished, on the last day, we went to Hersheypark. We had an amazing amount of fun, there. We rode on many roller coasters and went to their water park which was endlessly fun. We sealed the trip with a good memory.
Regardless of my sister’s performance, we always extended the trip in order to have a mini vacation. Many parents don’t see the use of doing this, but at least for me it changed my whole perception on how an athlete’s life has to be. This is how my sister was raised and now she is playing tennis for her university. Hopefully in a future, I am able to do the same.
P.S. Extremely proud little sister