Tennis was his second choice

Athlete Focus : Robert Tanimoto- tennis


Katherina Singh

Robert was willing to risk it, and fell in love with tennis.

Robert Tanimoto started playing tennis during his freshman year, but it was a strange year to start a spring sport and things were far from normal.

“Growing up in the quiet town of Pueblo West, Colorado, I wasn’t all that into sports, although I played basketball for a little bit,” he said. “Unfortunately I was really bad at it, and so I never played sports ever again – that is, until that fateful spring. I thought [tennis] would be a good ‘gateway sport’ to try out because it seemed easy and laid-back. Spoiler alert: it’s not easy at all, and there’s a lot of complexity to it which you don’t really notice until you’re out on the courts. But it is quite laid-back due to our smaller team. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve decided to stick with tennis. Plus, all my friends were joining.”

His friends from the original group didn’t stick with the sport, but Tanimoto has no plans of quitting.

“I think we have broken the record of most home runs during practice, but that’s actually not a good thing in tennis,” he said. “That’s about it. In part because of our smaller team size, our last few tennis seasons unfortunately haven’t been very eventful.”

Still, while there has been a lot of frustration and discouragement, Tanimoto sees a lot of good in his investment over the years. “I’m grateful that I’ve made a lot of new friends whom I would’ve never met otherwise via the tennis team, but at the end of the day, we just want to have fun. As I said before, it’s very laid back compared to other sports – at least at Armijo,” he said.

Tennis ended up being a great sport for Tanimoto. “On the courts I am very agile, which I attribute to my very small stature. For the record, I am 5’2”…In tennis it’s not just about speed. There’s a lot of stopping and starting, and precision is key. However, I find that my height is also a weakness, of course. It’s harder for me to serve over the net because I’m closer to the ground, and sometimes I lose points because of that, or at least that’s what I like to blame it on.”

His most memorable game thus far was the first game of this tennis season. “It was a strange experience to be the one taking the spot of two singles. Our team was mostly seniors last year, and they all graduated. Now I’m taking their place,” he said. “Honestly, it’s an honor, but it’s very intimidating. Anyways, we destroyed Will C. Wood’s team. It was pretty satisfying.”

The team has been small in the years since COVID and it is a great opportunity for people to get into sports, even if they don’t have experience. “We usually have practice a half hour after school gets out, except for Tuesdays and Thursdays, but it’s been raining a lot which has thrown off that schedule just a bit,” Tanimoto said. “As someone who kind of avoided sports before high school, I can say that I wish I got into tennis, or honestly any sport, way sooner. If you end up not liking a sport, then you can always quit. But you’ll never know that if you never try, so it’s definitely worth a shot.”

Tanimoto has considered starting up with basketball again, even though it was a challenge for him, but he does want to continue playing tennis after he graduate, but just for fun. “To be honest, the competition stresses me out a lot, although it’s also really exciting,” he said. 

While he’s at Armijo, he’s also been involved with Armijo’s Art Club. “Like tennis, there aren’t many people who show up regularly, but it is what it is,” he said. “I’ve always loved art and drawing has always been a hobby of mine, which sort of runs in the family. Sometimes I also like to write music, and I do play guitar, though I’m rusty since I haven’t been playing it as much during the past few years. I also enjoy coding. To be more specific, I’ve dabbled in game design and programming before. When I was younger, around 2013, I taught myself how to script in Roblox and I’d make little games that I could play with my friends.” 

Some of his big plans for the future include getting his driver’s license in August when he turns 18 and going to UC Davis to study engineering, although he’s also considered becoming a dentist or a video game programmer. “Yes, I know it’s a little all over the place…” he said.

Tanimoto’s older sister graduated from Armijo in 2019. “I really look up to her, and something I admire a lot about her is that she’s very responsible, and it feels like she always has her life together,” he said. “She’s someone where it feels like they always know what they’re doing. Honestly my mom is my role model. She’s the hardest worker I know and throughout her life she’s pushed through so many obstacles to get our family to where we are today. She’s someone who always takes advantage of the opportunities she has and she doesn’t let anything go to waste, so I really look up to her.