Regret going to college early

When athletes go to school

www.sandrawinkler.de / When athletes go to school / 2021-05-23 07:49:17


The center courts of the world used to be their home. Today Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi live in Las Vegas and look after children. Sandra Winkler was visiting

The expiration date of professional athletes is limited. They play their farewell game on the soccer field when they are in their early thirties, they hang their swimsuits on their nails when they are in their mid-twenties, they take off their boxing gloves when they are forty, or at least they give up their tennis racket at Wimbledon when they are thirty. And then what?
Some of the early retirees change sides, as coaches they finally want to flay instead of being flayed. Others blog for "Bild" and still others just get annoying - like Boris Becker. After leaving professional tennis in 1999, Steffi Graf retired to Las Vegas. To the hometown of her husband Andre Agassi. The most successful tennis couple in the world has been looking after children here since the end of their sports careers. About their own, Jaden Gil and Jaz Elle - and about others whom they want to help with their foundations “Children for Tomorrow” and “Andre Agassi Foundation for Education”. Eleven years ago, Agassi started a tuition-free school in Las Vegas. The “Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy” (“Agassi Prep” for short) offers over a thousand underprivileged children the opportunity to prepare for college.
There the two legendary tennis cracks sit in the gym under an American flag, the former tennis court bird of paradise wears a gray polo shirt and a leather strap around his neck with small cubes spelling out “Daddy rocks”. As always, Steffi Graf looks accurate and reserved in white trousers and a white cardigan. As a German who has spent a night on the Las Vegas Strip for the first time, one inevitably has to get rid of the question: “How did he persuade you to move here?” To this decadent plastic fantastic city without any Patina, where the hotels have 4,000 rooms and the casinos are full of gambling addicts. The unemployment rate is high and the suicide rate is the highest in the United States.
“It's been months since I was in the city center,” the 43-year-old replies, as if someone had asked the time. The casinos, the strip, they are all far away. Almost an hour by car to be precise. Her house is near Red Rock Canyon. There are parks and hiking trails there, and the kids go to hip-hop dance lessons and baseball here. Your life is not as crazy as Vegas, more conservative like Brühl.
Steffi Graf has created her own little family idyll in the middle of the Nevada desert. Not only her mother Heidi, who she wanted to have around after her breast cancer, followed her to Las Vegas. Brother Michael followed with his wife and four children. Agassi's parents and siblings also live here. “Family is the most important thing for us.” Even the most successful tennis player of the professional era does without a nanny, who is part of the normal household of celebrities like bunnies in the Playboy Mansion. “Through my sport I have developed the opportunity to watch my children grow up, to be a part of it. Today, as I work longer, "she says, referring to the interviews she is about to give," my mother picks up the children. "
Son-in-law Andre throws in that it's great for Steffi's mother to live in Las Vegas. Her friends from Germany come to visit her all the time. And Michael loves driving the jeep into the canyon. “We are here in the middle of the desert. But someone once believed that it was possible to build a city here, of all places. It's a positive, optimistic culture: We can do it! ”Enthuses Agassi. The spirit is unique.
So much optimism. Is it also in the projects of the two? You have already heard of athletes' foundations that primarily serve to polish up the image. “No, we already give more than our names,” says Steffi Graf and claps her hands over her head.
"Funds ... to ... realize ..." she says hesitantly. “Sorry, sometimes I find it a little difficult to get to grips with German.” And tries again: Fundraising takes up most of the time. Although it is much easier to raise money in America than in Germany. The Americans would just donate more. Last year alone at Agassi's big annual charity event "Grand Slam for Children", more than eight million dollars were raised in one evening. Santana, Elton John and Michael Bublé have already appeared for Agassi's cause, show greats who like to be in Las Vegas as often as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in Disneyland.
“In return, of course, you have to be available to the artists. It's a give and take, ”says Steffi Graf. Already the next day, giving is on the agenda for the two of them again, this time for the sponsor of their foundations. At the Kentucky Derby they will hold their Longines watches up to the cameras on the red carpet, Andre Agassi is also a brand ambassador for the company, which was founded in Switzerland in 1832. But they don't really want to call that work. However, exhibition fights for a good cause are getting tougher and tougher: "They are now very physically demanding," says Steffi Graf. They were just standing on the square together again. It can hardly be overlooked that such appearances are not good for Agassi's back. His gait is stiff.
Akiela and Maykayla will present what he has achieved with the money, among other things. The girls, both 13 years old, proudly run around their campus. They wear school uniforms made of polo shirts, ties and pleated skirts. The red and yellow striped low-rise building is located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, in Northwest Las Vegas. Some say it would be easier to win a Grand Slam than it would be to get from there to college. A place at Agassi's private school should also be celebrated like a victory. Thousands apply every year, whoever is accepted decides the lot.
On the “Agassi Prep” campus in Las Vegas, however, it is initially like any school playground in the world: loud. Most of the children are African American. They run around playing basketball. Is tennis actually also offered? No, you'd rather concentrate on team sports.
Akiela and Maykayla have been at Agassi's school for a year. They both think it's okay that classes last two hours longer than in the public schools they went to before. “Finally someone challenges us. We always learn something new. It used to be the same. ”It seems that the American education system is doing really badly.
Almost 100 percent of the Agassi Prep students graduate. This is all the more remarkable given that Nevada is the US state in which very few students qualify for college. The concept is so successful that Agassi is now expanding it to other countries and a total of 75 schools are to be built based on the same model over the next three years. At the entrance there are pictures of Agassi with prominent supporters. Under a photo of the founder it says "Your faith and your generosity made it possible". And Akiela and Maykayla know that their sponsor himself chose the quotes that are written in an aisle next to the life-size photos of Mandela, Einstein, Martin Luther King. Agassi's photo is also hanging there and shows him pulling his arms up on the tennis court. Including Churchill's saying: "Never give in, never give in. Never, never, never." Never give up! The academy's motto is clear: performance. In the ballet room there is a saying from a dancer: “Do you have big dreams? You wanna be famous Fame costs. Here is where you start paying. In sweat. ”Like his wife, Agassi felt a lot of pressure to perform as a child. And how they sacrificed schooling for tennis. He thinks that today: "Okay". Regret no, regret yes. And your own children? Agassi hardly lets you put the question to the end: "You go to the best private school that money can pay for." First of all, you should have a decent education. It's okay if someone wants to become a professional athlete. But not if you have to sacrifice your training for it. “Because sport is also mean,” says Agassi. “Even if you are good enough, train hard, succeed, it can be over in a day. And then what? Then the rest of your life will come. "

© Sandra Winkler
ICON 03/24/2013