EASTCHESTER, N.Y. -- Devastated by the loss of his mother as a young boy, Lake Isle Tennis Pro Kela Simunyola followed in the footsteps of his nine brothers and three sisters and picked up his first tennis racket when he was 7 years old.
By the time he was 12, Simunyola was such a good player, he was traveling around the globe playing in tournaments.
"I have travelled all over the world for tennis," Simuyola said. "But Eastchester wound up being home."
The first home in the United States for Simunyola, who is a native of Zambia, Africa, was Concordia College.
"I came to Concordia at 17 on a tennis scholarship," he said. "But even as a student, I began to teach."
Simunyola would spend close to 20 years on the road playing in tournaments, but always returned to this area to teach and coach.
Although playing tennis is his first love, Simunyola said teaching children to play is a very close second.
"I work with competitive players," he said. "I love to see their progress."
Sixteen years ago, he was invited to become the tennis pro at Lake Isle, where he would turn his attention toward teaching and coaching.
"I have taught so many kids over the years and some of them have gone very far on the tournament circuit, a few even to the US Open," he said.
Brittany Sedlak, 10, of Eastchester won a doubles tournament for kids 11-and-under this summer.
"It looks a lot easier than it is," Sedlak said of tennis.
Simunyola, 45, has a new student he is extremely proud of - his granddaughter 3-year-old Ligaya.
"I already have her out on the court and, of course, her mother, my daughter Kylene, played in the French Open," he said.
Lake Isle's tennis program with Simuyola continues into the fall. However, the town has struck a deal with an outside vendor to enclose the courts in a portable bubble where the vendor would then conduct winter classes.
During those months Simunyola will offer classes, a schedule of which can be found at KelaTennis.org.
Simunyola will be back in the spring, looking forward to advancing his current students and welcoming new ones.
"Tennis is for everybody. Every year I have new students who are 7-years-old and new students who are 60-years-old," Simunyola said. "Tennis is a lifetime sport."
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