Re: Jade Hopper Cheering Thread.
today there was a article on the family in the west aussy,sydney morning herald. this is from the smh
Long-distance relationships don't come much tougher than when your tennis coach - and father - is serving time in prison, writes Jessica Halloran.
JADE Hopper skipped around Queensland's Hope Island tennis courts, hitting her shots as photographs were taken of her every move. Thirty pictures of the teenage prodigy would then be printed off and bundled into an envelope addressed to Langi Kal Kal prison.
On his prison bed, Gavin Hopper would scatter the photographs of his daughter swinging her racquet. Hopper would piece together her forehand, study it and pick out the tiny flaws in her motion. He'd then scrawl instructions on sheets of paper and mail them from the prison near Ballarat back to the family home at Hope Island. There Jade would sit in her Gold Coast bedroom and read her dad's words.
During the past 2½ years Hopper coached his talented daughter like this. Hopper's "special girl" was destined for grand slam brilliance and this was the only way to keep the dream alive.
Once every fortnight Jade would receive these tennis tomes, as her father served time for indecent assault committed against a 14-year-old schoolgirl when he was a teacher at Wesley College in Melbourne.
On the pages of foolscap there were new programs. Up to 10 different drills, meticulously detailed. There were hundreds of words to keep her teenage limbs strong.
"There were pages," Hopper said. "I had time to write."
Every day, sometimes twice, he'd talk to Jade on the telephone, mostly about tennis. When he went away she penned letters to her dad every day. "That was the only way we could hold on to it," Hopper said. "Jade was in this critical area."
In prison there were two particularly precious coaching moments for Hopper. In October 2005 and February this year Hopper was allowed to watch a three-hour video of Jade thumping tennis balls. It was filmed by her younger sister, 11-year-old Skye, who also took the photographs.
"I was just hitting, serving, volleys, serves, cross-courts, just anything," Jade said. "Skye would just stand there and video the entire session."
Hopper was allowed out of the cell he shared with other prisoners to sit in privacy in a separate room at Langi Kal Kal to watch the tape. "It was pretty exciting," Hopper said. "When I was getting the sheets, I thought, 'Her stroke production looks OK'. But [with] still shots you can't see the flow of the shot and how things are happening."
During the 27 months he spent inside, Hopper had never been so separated from a tennis court and his daughters. He was used to coaching Jade for six hours a day, telling her when to drink her protein shakes and helping her with her home schooling.
For the preceding 13 years, Hopper had been there for almost every moment of Jade's life. There when she started training as a three-year-old. There when, as a seven-year-old, she played tennis against Elton John in an exhibition match in Atlanta.
There on a main street of Ankara, in front of thousands and the Turkish prime minister, as a 12-year-old Jade hit tennis balls. Jade making the crowd love her with her blonde hair, blue eyes and talent of striking 10 tin cans in a row with a tennis ball.
He was there when Jade won her first tournaments on country tennis courts and pumped her tiny fist in celebration.
Jade befriended Hopper's tennis pupils like Anna Kournikova and Monica Seles. "I got my grunt from Monica," Jade said.
They travelled around the world something like 60 times together as he guided the careers of Mark Philippoussis, Amanda Coetzer, Kournikova, and Seles.
They spent every day with each other. He was her best friend. Then he was gone.
At times this was incomprehensible for Jade, then 13. When he left her first thoughts were, "What do I do?". Out in the heat on the mint green tennis court at their Hope Island home, her spirits sunk. She'd sometimes hold the racquet limply in her small, callused hands. "It was a shock," Jade said. "If something didn't feel quite right, I sort of, had to fix it myself."
She'd never had to do that before.
Phone calls from her dad in prison were confusing at the start. It was hard to articulate the trouble she was having with a particular backhand or a volley. It was hard to explain what it felt like. During one tournament she unzipped her tennis bag to find she'd forgotten to have her racquets re-strung. Her dad always did that.
The first time she was guided by someone other than her father it ended in tears. Confusion swallowed her up when she attended her first training session with a Tennis Australia coach. The new coach tried to get her to change her grip and other little things. The tiny girl burst with frustration.
Jade admits she is tough to coach.
"I know what I want and I know my game very well," Jade said. "The only other person that knows my game very well is dad."
Hopper added: "Jade is probably the easiest-going girl you know; tennis-wise she knows what she wants, so she's not the easiest person to coach."
The Hoppers were not ungrateful for Tennis Australia's assistance, it just didn't fit into their program.
"Tennis Australia were terrific with assistance," Hopper said. "However, the one thing that Jade needed most was the six-hour a day program. She knew that every day she wasn't going to get six hours of training. That's why I had to send her to America."
He sent her to his old friend Fritz Nau. He coached just like dad. Nau once headed Nick Bollettieri's famed tennis academy and had mentored all the "young guns" such as Kournikova, Seles, Tommy Haas, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier.
Nau had beaten cancer and wrote to Hopper in prison, some "beautiful emails", about getting through tough times. Hopper knew Nau was the right man for his daughter. Jade relished those months in America.
"It was just like having dad again," Jade said. "Fritz is an amazing guy, he's just the nicest, coolest guy ever."
But now Hopper is back. On the night of October 30 at 9 o'clock, he walked back into his family home and embraced his family, wife Karen and his girls, Jade, now 15, and Skye, 11.
"Can we go on the court tonight," Jade asked, giddy with excitement. "No," Hopper said. They'd wait for the first light of the morning.
When the Herald visited the family's home this week the girls were clearly relishing having their dad there. Karen, who has stuck by Hopper and cared for the girls, did not want to be interviewed for this article.
Hopper watched Jade on court as she practised with Skye. "She's hitting the ball fantastic," he said. "It's world class, she's back into hitting. Just sweetness on the racquet."
As they practised in the sticky heat, Skye and her dad took on Jade together. A cheeky Skye shouted: "Hey, get over your side, Dad." Skye giggled her way through the practice and Hopper said she holds great promise, like Jade.
Jade was focused and intense, but was also clearly having fun.
Hopper shouted encouraging phrases like: "C'mon, rip … c'mon, rip."
"The harder the better."
"Beautiful shot. Keep digging."
Skye took a rest in the shade and watched her determined family hit on. She then mischievously quipped about her dad's tanned skin. "I can't believe it," she said. "He doesn't go outside for 2½ years and he's got a tan."
Hopper also didn't bother cutting his blonde locks on the inside and now wears a ponytail which trails down the middle of his back. His arms are like two blocks of caramel muscle. He had plenty of time to exercise.
When Jade took her turn to rest in the shade, she reflected on the bad times. To the pop of tennis balls being struck, she told how lonely she got when her dad went away.
"Sometimes I thought it would never end," Jade said. "It wasn't hard training so much. The first year went pretty, not quick, it went by, I could practise on my own, no problem, but once I started getting back into tournaments, that was just so hard. To do it alone, it was just really, really hard to deal with.
"Being away in Darwin, Adelaide, New Zealand, it was just, I can do it alone, I've done it alone. Sometimes you walk on the court and you're playing a tough match, you're just not playing well. I thought, 'There's no one actually here who cares if I win or not'.
"That gets you down. No one would actually care. You try as hard as you can."
She tried but loneliness swamped her. There were three weeks in New Zealand last year that were the hardest. Staying with families that weren't her own was tough. She called her mum and begged her to put her on a flight home.
"After each match I was just so depressed," she said. What hurt the most was there was no one to say, "Well done, Jade".
"And if you lose, there was no one to talk to about it," she said. "It was just so hard to do."
On the darker days her little sister was someone whom she did lean on. Jade explained that Skye falls under the Pisces star sign, while she is a Cancerian. "Cancer and Pisces have a love/hate relationship," Jade said with a smile.
They are typical sisters who steal hair brushes, clothes, and perfume from one another, but their bond is visibly tight. When their dad went away they assumed his responsibilities and the maturity to take up his empty roles. Jade became Skye's tennis coach. Skye took up her dad's role as Jade's hitting partner.
Skye rolled her eyes and said Jade bossed her around. But, essentially, they triumphed through their sisterly tiffs to keep going. And they love lining up against each other on the court.
"She can handle my ball and in the half court she can protect herself," Jade said. "I love hitting with her, that's probably been a dream of mine, since I was six and she couldn't hit with me a lot. Being able to rip balls across court, like the Williams sister can do …"
Hopper interjected: "We've probably got a couple more years before they can really get into it."
After practising, the trio sipped iced water. Hopper admitted he knew he could have lost much more than two years of freedom and his girls' tennis careers.
"I could have lost the niceness in these two from me not being around. I'm very proud of the way they've handled it. You know what they thought a lot over the last couple of years? It was just another life experience, because we've travelled so much."
He turned to Jade and Skye and nodded to them.
"You've seen some bad parts of life, haven't you?" Hopper said. "Kids with arms cut off begging in the Philippines. The back streets of Turkey - you've seen the bad parts of life. You know it's around."
Skye squinted in the sun and Jade nodded. "Stuff that this doesn't even compare to," Jade said.
Hopper added: "You deal with it, don't you? You get on with it and they've done that."
Sisters were doing it for themselves
THE Hopper sisters dream of emulating Venus and Serena Williams. Together Jade, 15, and Skye, 11, practise six hours a day to achieve their ambition of playing on the women's tennis tour.
Both girls are aiming to compete on the European circuit in the new year. Jade will play on the women's circuit for the first time and Skye on the juniors for several months.
Gavin Hopper said that when he was in prison he feared that his time away would be detrimental to Skye's tennis development.
"Skye grew up hitting more balls at the same age than Jade did," Hopper told the Herald. "She was straight into six hours of training at six years of age. Then all of the sudden, at nine, which is a really important developmental period, I wasn't around. So Jade had to take over the coaching for those two years."
Jade, once the best under-12 player in the world, became a competent coach while Hopper served time at Langi Kal Kal prison near Ballarat for sex offences.
"Jade has a clear understanding of how I would like Skye's game to develop," Hopper said. "That's been Jade's biggest challenge with Skye, to keep the intensity on the court. I'm amazed with what's Jade's done. They've done a great job together to get Skye's game to this stage: world class at 11 years of age."
Using a tennis computer program that catalogued the top players' strokes, the girls would try to emulate them on their court at home on the Gold Coast.
Jade also drew on her experience from being around top players like Monica Seles when she was young, and remembered the intensity needed to be a professional.
"I'd also watched my dad coach Monica Seles and Amanda Coetzer," Jade said. "I pretty much knew what he wanted with Skye, because I'd gone through it. I mean, all I had to do was keep hitting with her and every now and then say a couple of things.
sry for the long post but its 5pages long
SAMMY OUR NO 1