RCC tennis coach Carlos Vazquez riding with bulls

Posted: April 8, 2015 | Written by Victor Gallegos

The bull staggers to his feet, a stream of blood dripping from his back. A banderilla is tearing at the wound, making it deeper and deeper. The bull senses his time is up. The inevitable end to the fight, to his life is in the hands of the bullfighter.

As the bull maneuvers to his left, a sword is inserted into the back of his neck, and then ejected. Air bubbles begin to fill the blood stream, and the adrenaline can no longer keep the bull erect.

El torero approaches the subdued bull one last time, hoping to end its misery. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, the bull uses his last burst of energy and horns El Torero, tearing a hole through his abdomen. Both collapse.

“You fight until the end,” said RCC assistant tennis coach Carlos Vazquez.

Born in Spain 44 years ago, Vazquez has been fighting until the end his whole life.

His first obstacle came at a young age, when his interest in tennis went against the Spanish tradition.

“In Spain you either play futbol or Bullfight,” Vazquez said.

But there he was, at the age of five, wanting to hit tennis balls with his father.

“He challenged me to hit 20 consecutive balls above a line on the wall, and I did,” Vazquez said.

After passing the challenge, his father agreed to let him take group lessons to hone his skills. Noticing that Vazquez was serious about tennis, his father enrolled him in the prestigious private club, Club Tennis De Barcelona.

It was until 1977 when Vazquez realized his passion was tennis. He found it difficult to keep up with his academic studies, and used tennis as an escape from the hardship.

At 11, and sure of what he wanted to become, he dropped out of grade school to pursue his dream of playing tennis professionally.

Vazquez began practicing eight hours a day, using hard work to improve his tennis skills exponentially.

He was trained by Karim Perona, who has reached No. 5 ranking in the world and is now coaching Tommy Robredo, a Spanish professional tennis player.

He later joined the Tennis Federation of Catalonia, earning sponsorships both local and nationwide.

From their, Vazquez earned a spot playing in Junior’s for the French Open, Wimbledon, and a variety of upper-echelon tournaments, traveling to Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Puerto Rico.

At 17-years-old his life was on an upward spike, having achieved a No. 40 rank in the International Tennis Federation for Juniors.

It was then that Vazquez made the life changing decision; to leave his native country and come to Palm Springs to be under the tutelage of Jose Higuera, former No. 6 ranked player in the world and former coach of tennis icons Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

Then life made a complete turn, Vazquez suffered a severe wrist injury, one that would not only stunt his development and ascent into the top players of the world, but one that ended his playing career.

With his dream in doubt, he returned to school for the first time since he quit.

Here he was, seven years since dropping out from high school, and now attending school in the United States with a different language.

But no language barrier can deter a wounded bull. A determined Vazquez graduated from Palm Springs High School in 1990 and decided to return home to Spain.

Two days before his flight, he was approached by Cal Baptist University, who offered him a scholarship to play tennis.

Even though Vazquez felt he was in no shape to play tennis to the level accustomed, CBU convinced him to stay.

“As my faith strengthened, so did my game” Vazquez said.

He went on to win conference at CBU all four years from 1990-1994, earning himself the nickname “the guy who couldn’t miss.”

Amidst the success at CBU, another life changing decision loomed. He had met the love of his life, his future wife, and chose to stop playing tennis to focus on her and help her through a PHD.

With bills to pay and a commitment, he began working five jobs simultaneously, as a scuba instructor, substitute PE teacher, construction worker, tennis instructor and manager of a tennis shop.

Life eventually settled down, and Vazquez continued teaching tennis. He became certified to teach via the United States Tennis Association.

Fate eventually led Vazquez to RCC,

At the beginning of the 2015 season, head coach Jim Elton suffered an injury, making him unfit to coach the RCC men’s tennis team. Vazquez stepped up to the challenge, and the Tigers’ have thrived with him at the helm.

“Everybody that works with me knows I expect and demand a lot of my players,” Vazquez said.

His biggest goal when teaching his pupils is to emphasize a strong work ethic, something that many tennis athletes in the United States lack.

Sure enough, as he tells this, several players are seen shortcutting drills. The coach immediately takes notice, and instructs the team to restart the drills, until they all finish proficiently.

“How are you going to get better if you take shortcuts,” Vazquez said.

These valuable lessons Vazquez has brought to the RCC tennis team after starting the season 2-3, the Tigers’ completed a remarkable turnaround, defeating Saddleback College on April 3 in the last game of the year to claim the second place spot in conference.

Something that was improbable became possible.

“You fight until the end.”

Just like the bull, just like their coach. The Tigers’ have done so.