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Champions Off the Court - Rob Nankervis

“Self-belief is a very important driving force in someone becoming the person they want to be,” said Rob Nankervis when asked what biggest challenge he faces as a teacher in the prison and on the court. Rob Nankervis started playing tennis when he was 10 years old. This sparked a love that he will cherish for the rest of his life. Rob played tennis all across South Africa. Soon after that, Rob and his wife, Gail, were ready for a new adventure. 22 years ago, they decided to come to America.

During their yearlong vista, they fell in love with the people and the opportunities that they found. When the time came for them to return to South Africa; they decided that if God opened the door for them to stay, then they would jump at the chance to take it. Before they left, Rob heard about a job opening to teach at a prison. Rob was able to come back to interview for the position and received the job. This gave Rob and Gail the opportunity to come back to America. Rob has now been teaching in the prison for 20 years and his family received their citizenship 4 years ago. DSC_0144

Being the GED teacher in the prison is anything but easy. By law in the state of Arkansas, if you are in prison and do not have a high school diploma or the equalization of one, you are required to attend classes. However, Rob has always been up for the challenge. He chooses every day to motivate them to recognize the value of improving. Rob deals with students who have always failed, acted out, or have been kicked out. Therefore, they associate school with many negative things. But, Rob believes it does not have to stay that way. Rob said, “I can have all the knowledge in the world but it doesn’t help if I can’t motivate them to learn. I find that most students are less interested in what you know and more interested in if you care.”

Rob is also the head pro at the Otter Creek Racquet Club. During his time, Rob, (and his wife, Gail) have received the award as Tennis Professional of the Year, as well as, Facility of the Year. Rob calls tennis the gift that keeps on giving. “It has made my marriage richer, it has made our relationships better, and has created friendships all across the world, and improved our health. It has been a great blessing on our life.”

USTA Arkansas is very proud of Rob for all of his hard work that he has done in the community to make a difference! We would like to thank Rob for being a Champion on and off the court! Do you know someone making a difference in the community? Submit their name and story by clicking here!




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