High school kids are often stereotyped as being too wrapped up in their own world that they don’t have time — or even care — about the plight of others.
Over the years, I’ve found that is far from the case. While that may have been the case in the distant past, I have discovered that high school kids nowadays are far more likely to jump in and help when they can.
On the opening day of the Bank of the West women’s tennis tournament at Stanford last week, members of the Menlo School tennis team presented a $10,000 check to the East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring organization. The check represented money the team raised from the number of service aces it recorded during the 2014 spring season.
Lane Leschly, who played most of the season as the Knights’ No. 3 singles player, came up with the idea following a tour of the EPATT facilities and decided he wanted to do something to help the organization.
Founded in 1988, EPATT is an after-school program that provides youth development for local students from underprivileged communities. EPATT uses academic tutoring, group tennis instruction, parent education and accountability to help students become successful.
Leschly’s idea was to get sponsors for each service ace the team served during the season. Over 24 matches, the Knights came up 345 aces — well above the goal of 100 that was initially set.
“This is all Lane’s doing. It all started with Lane, who has tremendous character,” said Menlo tennis coach Bill Shine. “But to have the other guys embrace it and get excited about it (showed what kind of character they had as well).”
The only skepticism Shine had was players who became so focused on recording aces that it would embarrass other teams. Shine need not have worried. Menlo kids are classier than that.
“What I didn’t want to happen is to have the guys come across as, ‘Oh wow! We’re going to try to ace people all the time,’ and run across the court to write it down,” Shine said. “I just told them to remember how many [aces] they got and write it down later.”
Shine said there was a running tally he kept in his office and, after every match, the players would write down the number of aces they had in their matches.
“[The players] had a little competition with it,” Shine said. He said he doesn’t remember who finished with the most, but “Lane has a big serve. He gets a lot of aces.”
As the season went along, Shine realized not only was the team raising funds, they were raising the level of their tennis game as well.
“It made them play better,” Shine said. “A lot of guys were working on their serves in practice. I noticed most all of them were really working on their serves.”
As the season went along, the amount of money raised kept growing. Never in his wildest dreams did he think the Knights would reach the level they eventually did.
“It started small,” Shine said. “We had $2,000. Then $4,000. We never even thought we’d get to $10,000. That was so far off of what we thought we would raise.”
But there they were July 28, presenting a check before the opening of the Bank of the West tournament.
The Menlo boys’ tennis program is one of the best not only on the Peninsula, but in the nation. But the money the team raised this past season made Shine more proud than any of the countless Central Coast Section championships the team has won over the years.
“It does show that good guys can finish first. That’s what we preach at Menlo. It’s not about just them (the players). It’s about people who are a little more unfortunate than we are,” Shine said. “You got to give back to the game that gave you so much.”
And it doesn’t appear this a one-time thing.
“Overall, it was a huge success with the team and we’ve all gotten really engaged in the idea, so we’re hoping to continue the fun next year,” Leschly said in a press release.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You follow him on Twitter@CheckkThissOutt.