The visit consisted of an informational seminar day aimed at Thai athletes and their parents to inform them of the athletic and academic opportunities available at U.S. colleges and a two-day tennis skills camp for students.
Making Athletics Accessible
Currently, Thailand’s biggest industry is tourism, but organizations such as the U.S. College Sports Camp and the Thai Ministry of Sports and Tourism are working to raise Thai sports to a more prominent position, both within the country and internationally.
Dolehide and her colleagues had the opportunity to discuss the future of athletics with the CEO of Singha, the primary athletic sponsor in Thailand, and H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the minister of sports and tourism. They discussed the importance of investing in international tournaments and exposing athletes to international competitions, as well as the ability of the United States to help athletes maintain training but also go to college.
“The problem right now is that young athletes have far fewer options in Thailand,” said Dolehide. “Since there is no college sports culture, many are faced with the decision of going pro or getting an education, which isn’t a choice they should have to make.”
Same Sport, New Experience
Dolehide has been coaching American college tennis players for three years, but this trip gave her the opportunity to work with a completely new group of athletes.
“There were some cultural differences that I had to adjust to,” Dolehide said. “I learned that honor, respect, and hierarchy are cornerstones of Thai culture, and this manifests in the relationships between coaches, educators, and athletes.”
Despite the cultural contrast and the language barrier, Dolehide was able to have equally rewarding and productive training sessions with the Thai tennis players, who were very receptive to her feedback and suggestions.
“At the end of the day, sports are sports, so the best practices are effective across cultures and countries,” she said. “The most important thing I try to do as a coach is foster a balance between the physical and mental aspect of the sport, and encourage my students to work towards big goals through small, step-by-step improvements.”
Giving Back to the Sport
“I’ve been playing tennis since I was a child, and throughout my life the sport has given me so many opportunities, including a scholarship, and now a job,” Dolehide said. “It felt great to make an impact on the lives of young kids who love tennis as much as I do.”
In her experience as a coach, Dolehide has been on other international trips, but mostly with the purpose of recruiting high-level athletes, whereas this trip had a philanthropic purpose. It was the first time she traveled with the goal of developing another country’s tennis program.
“I like to use these international travel opportunities to learn, and working with a new set of students in a place so unlike the environment I’m used to has definitely been an inspiring experience,” said Dolehide.