By Emilio Sanchez, CEO and Founder of the Academia Sanchez-Casal
I accompanied Verdasco to the Rome Masters in May 2017 and when he lost, I got the urge to stop by Madrid to visit Casper, something within me pushed me to visit him instead of going to Barcelona to see my mother. (For those of you who didn’t know Casper, he was a student-athlete at Sanchez-Casal Florida. He came to us at 14 years old from Madrid to pursue his dream of becoming a tennis player). Seeing him upon my arrival made me very happy because he was doing and looking better than he did in December, he had a spectacular light. I was impressed to see how he talked kindly about others and cared about everyone. One afternoon, he said he wanted to become a tennis coach if he healed. His leg had just been operated and he knew he would never be able to run again but that wasn’t going to stop him. He said that if coaching did not work out, he would like to give young players the same opportunity that he was given, the chance to train and attend school in the United States… his parents and I were speechless.
Looking back, I noticed that the light I had seen was that he was already like an angel, thinking of doing good, and that’s when the Casper Tour was born. We decided to organize a series of tournaments for kids between the ages of 9-16, with the proceeds going toward helping kids get rid of that terrible illness. Unfortunately, Casper left us in July 2017, but his mark remains with his teammates, coaches and teachers. Our intention for this tour is that his legacy is transmitted through this series of tournaments that bear his name.
We presented the Casper Tour at the Mutua Madrid Open with Feliciano Lopez, Miguel Díaz president of the Spanish Federation, the Madrid team, Tati Rascon, Valencia, Antonio Cascales, and Casper’s family. In addition, Feliciano got an ATP Aces donation from the ATP Tour for the ESV Foundation and the Casper Tour, giving us the opportunity to start this journey.
One of the determining factors of the circuit are ages, since it is competed with players born in the same year. Another factor that differentiates us is our use of the UTR (Universal Tennis Ranking), which is a rating based on results and helps players enter American Universities. We have just signed an agreement with them to improve the participation of American and international players.
This year, the Casper Tour kicked off at ASC Nanjing with over 140 entries during two intense and rainy days. Casper’s legacy began taking shape, it was a resounding success.
The second stop was in June at ASC Barcelona, we had about 80 participants. The event took part during a difficult week that coincided with the end of school year and final exams but celebrating it at Sánchez-Casal HQ gave us a big push.
Then it was New York’s turn, the tour’s 3rd leg took place at World Gym in Setauket. They had a great turn out, the number of participants was very high, 80+ children. Eva Borras and I gave several talks for parents about Tennis and the Mental Pillar.
Then we went, to Ciudad de la Raqueta in Madrid. The response was spectacular, most of the clubs in the city participated, we even held a forum about women’s sports with the Secretary of State for Sports, Maria José Rienda and Anabel Medina and Virginia Ruano.
In September, the Casper Tour arrived at Key Biscayne, Miami, the truth is, the kids enjoyed getting to play the tournament there and we were able to reach 75 participants.
We had a great turn out at Puente Romano in Marbella, they achieved a resounding success with a magnificent inscription of more than 90, and mental talks by Maite.
Finally, during the same weekend as Marbella, ASC Florida took over with more than 120 participants and a spectacular environment, many international kids who were preparing for the Orange Bowl came to the closing event and turned it into an unforgettable moment.
This is just the beginning, in 2019 we will kick off the tour in Alicante, Spain then Atlanta, where we will take the tour to a new venue. We will expand and reach 10 cities next year, and in the future, we hope to take the circuit to many other corners of the world.
I can only thank all everyone who made the circuit possible, Casper’s family, the clubs, Yiang, Mike, Tito Perez, Koki Marti, Juan Yuste, Campuzano, Sergio Troncoso in Spain and Rogelio de Haro here in Usa. Also thank you to those who have participated and helped: Marisa, Blanca, Marina, Joe from the Help to Diabetic Child Foundation, Luis from ICI, Chema, Koke, Iñigo, Xavi, Angelica, Susana, Dani, Eva and the sponsors as Head, Leotron, Mapfre, Lauretana, Locos por la Musica for their support. The purpose of establishing Casper’s legacy has been achieved and we must continue to turn the Tour into a reference circuit and to establish itself over time.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy new year. I hope that we will continue working on our common goal: to create opportunities in tennis, in education and in life.
CEO and Co-Founder of the Academia Sanchez-Casal