Kahiau: A Tennis Foundation

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Hall of Fame 2009


Jim Schwitter and Vailima Watson

2009 Tennis Hall of Fame Inductees

VAILIMA WATSON, 2009 Non-Player Recepient

Vailima WatsonVailima Watson has been an extraordinary coach and mentor, positively changing many young lives in the Kalihi community. She is an inspiration to all who are fortunate to get to know her. She brings together a community that is diverse with Samoan, Filipino, Hawaiian, Laotian, Vietnamese and Micronesian immigrants through tennis. Her outreach goes the tennis court, penetrating complex layers of socioeconomic barriers.

Vailima was born in Calcutta, India. Her Samoan father and Indian Mother lived there for 20 years. Shortly after, the family moved to Hawaii. She was exposed to diverse ethnic communities all her life.

Before her days on the tennis court, Vailima was part of the renowned Tavana Polynesian Revue show at the Moana Hotel that thrived in Waikiki in the 1970s. As a young family, Vailima, her husband Jerry and the two young daughters, Wana?o and Lahi lived in Waikiki where they spent a lot of time on the beach; often with Jerry surfing and Vailima on the sand with the girls.Vailima Watson

Determined to get more "family time" Vailima took charge by hijacking, well, more like breaking, Jerry’s brand new surfboard and demanded change. They decided to play tennis as a family. They became a part of the Diamond Head Tennis Center group and the regulars helped to coach the girls, Wana?o and Lahi. Since both girls excelled in competitive tennis, Vailima and Jerry decided to get more involved by using tennis as a medium in their social work.

From 1974 to 1978, Vailima and Jerry became the resident managers at the first Shelter for Abuse Spouse and Children, owned by the Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services. It was one of only 10 Abuse Shelters in the U.S. at that time. She then worked for the military’s Family & Abuse Spouse Shelter from 1984 to 1989 while also working at Punahou School.

In 1990, Vailima left Punahou School to give more attention to the underserved youth of Kalihi. That year she started a free tennis program at the Kokua Kalihi Valley clinic that was conducted at the Kalihi Recreation Center and Farrington High School. Since then, she has introduced tennis to nearly 1,000 youngsters in the neighborhood by developing partners with Kaewai Elementary School, Dole Intermediate School, Fern Elementary, The Girl Scouts, Kalakaua Intermediate School, Police Athletics League, Kalihi Valley Homes, Kalihi Palama Health and Social Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Vailima has generated USTA Jr. Team Tennis teams each season since 1991 and has coached the Farrington High School Team since 2006. The high school tennis team has a"no cut" policy and the Tennis Club thrives year-round. Due to Vailima’s grass roots tennis program, many Kalihi Housing children’s first experience with athletics is tennis. There are many kids on the football, softball and volleyball teams with inherent tennis skills. Without any parent support, Vailima organizes the tennis teams and teaches the kids to be responsible in attending practices and matches. All the kids have her cell number. Veteran junior players become assistant coaches and helpers for Vailima’s new players.
Vailima WatsonIn addition to tennis, Vailima provides Health Education/Social Development Classes in their "Tennis Not Tobacco" (TNT) Programs at Kaewai Elementary, Dole Intermediate and Farrington High School. She educates youth in areas of Drug/Alcohol substance abuse and teen pregnancy making a difference where family abuse, crime and hunger are prevalent. She has integrated an after-school tutoring program with tennis and helped to build a computer lab attached to the park facility so students can do their homework. She has motivated many of her students to complete college and find successful careers.

We honor Vailima for her exemplary service to the community, passionate in using tennis to develop healthy lifestyles among the Kalihi youth, teaching them self-worth, teamwork, discipline and good citizenship.

  JIM SCHWITTERS, 2009 Player Recepient

Jim SchwittersJim Schwitters, the player is being recognized this year. He was inducted into the Hawaii Pacific Section’s Tennis Hall of Fame as the Non-Player recipient in 2007 and is the only recipient to have been honored with both awards.

Jim’s love for the game began at an early age of seven. Growing up in the Midwest, Schwitters’ passion was baseball. Jim’s tennis playing career made a turn from a baseball bat to a tennis racquet after a tryout with the St. Louis Browns, now the Baltimore Orioles. 

He attended St. Ambrose College in Iowa on a tennis scholarship and graduated in 1959, receiving All-Catholic and All-American honors. While playing collegiate tennis he was one of the active players on the American Clay Court Tour and played exhibitions with Maureen Connelly, Maria Bueno, Jim Osborne, Jack Kramer and Poncho Gonzales.Jim Schwitters

Jim moved to Hawaii in 1961 however, his tennis career spanned the globe, playing in tournaments all over the United States, the South Pacific, Asia and Europe. He was a Diamond Head Tennis Court regular and played with the celebrities, politicians and hundreds of visitors that came through the island.

Jim’s tennis career thrived at the boom of professional tennis in the 1960s and 70s and became an accomplished player and member of the United States Professional Tennis Association. He has earned six USPTA titles and highlights his wins at the 1966 Canadian Open, and Tahiti National Open in 1969. He has won two singles titles in the National 45s and one in the 60s age divisions. He also earned two National doubles titles in the 55s and one in the 60s age divisions.

He was named one of the "Top Ten Players of the Century" in Hawaii and with over 60 years of competitive tennis under his belt, Jim has won over 350 tournaments. Jim has been ranked No. 1 in his age group nearly every year since 1974, and holds more than 20 national rankings. In 1998, he won the USPTA National 60’s Singles Championship. He was also bestowed with Player of the Year Awards (in the USPTA Hawaii Division) in 1987, 1995, 1998 and 1999.

In his 39-year tenure at UH-Manoa, coach Schwitters retired in 2003 with a combined overall record of 1,312 wins. Coach Schwitters received the 1990 Regional Coach of the Year and holds the record as the winningest NCAA Division-I coach in history.

Jim helped to establish the USTA Hawaii Pacific Section in the mid-1970’s. Jim was the 2nd member of the USPTA from Hawaii and the 2nd President of the Hawaii State Lawn Tennis Association – now the USTA Hawaii Pacific Section. Jim’s hard work and effort to increase both membership and sanctioned tournaments helped institute the organization as it stands today.

He was claimed Hawaii’s "Player of the Decade" in the 1970’s, awarded Honolulu Quarterback Club’s Hawaii Senior Athlete of the Year in 1978, an inductee to the Ambrose College Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and USPTA Hawaii Hall of Fame in 2004 and in 2006 he was, and still is, the only tennis player to be inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.

We honor Jim this evening, not just for all his accomplishments on the tennis court, but more so for being the ideal consummate tennis player, living a passion for tennis by playing and inspiring others.