Q&A: NOA FAMILY TAKES PRIDE IN CELEBRATINGCOMMUNITY TENNIS | USTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
THEIR SAMOAN HERITAGE
THEIR SAMOAN HERITAGE
MAY 25, 2023
Q&A: NOA FAMILY TAKES PRIDE IN CELEBRATING THEIR SAMOAN HERITAGEUSTA SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
MAY 25, 2023
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May is a vibrant and significant celebration of AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Month, honoring the rich cultural heritage, contributions, and achievements of the AAPI community. We recently spoke with Sam Noa, founder of the Semurana Tennis Association (STA), and his grandchildren about their Polynesian culture.
Question: How do you describe fa’a Samoan culture to people?
Sam Noa: The fa’a Samoa means the Samoan way of life or simply the Samoan culture.
Q: Do you feel like more people are beginning to understand more about Polynesian cultures through AAPI events and activities?
SN: I believe more people are starting to understand Polynesian cultures through AAPI events and activities. As a Polynesian representing the AAPI, I’m pleased that the Semurana Tennis Association (STA) is contributing to the promotion of our AAPI celebration. To continue honoring AAPI’s heritage and cultures, STA will host an event next year. I appreciate USTA Southern California for organizing community events that foster positive relationships and serve our community better through mutual understanding.
Q: Why did you make the decision in 2000 to found the Semurana Tennis Association?
SN: In 1997, my family move back to Carson from Hawaii. Immediately, we started playing tennis again. I felt it was the right thing to do. And I wanted to turn it into a NPO so I could get some sponsors and grants. I figured starting in the year 2000 would be a good start because my kids were old enough to become coaches. I kept the jobs in house and providing a roof over their heads and feeding them, to me this was a fair deal. It was all in the family. My kids enjoyed being coaches. The only time I needed to hire coaches was during the NJTL summer session. And their salaries were paid by USTA Southern California. Therefore, that is how the STA was found.
Q: What were the events that led you and STA to Victoria Park and what are some of your greatest accomplishments at your site?
SN: My house is about 0.3 miles from Victoria Park (VP). I must credit my wife for picking this location. During the summer the Polynesians mainly, Samoans would come to VP to play cricket in preparation for the Samoan Flag Day cricket tournament. While the adults were playing cricket on the field, their kids got their attention on us playing tennis on the courts. At this time, I was teaching my kids how to play tennis. Then I started giving them tennis balls for them to play catch. With the tennis ball that I gave them, the kids began to play cricket on the tennis courts. There were still a few kids that continued to watch us playing tennis. All this time me and my kids were communicating in English because my kids did not understand Samoan. For that reason, the Samoan kids did not know that I was Samoan. One day I overheard them speaking in Samoan. They were talking about that they wanted to play tennis. After my lesson with my kids, then I approached the kids and started talking to them in Samoan. They were surprised and happy that I was Samoan. We had a good laugh. They thought I was Mexican. And this was how I got started teaching tennis at Victoria Park. Later an NJTL court monitor named Michael Jenkins observed me teaching my summer class at VP. He approached me and asked me if I wanted to become an NJTL coach because Victoria Park was an NJTL summer site. So, becoming an NJTL coach was also my introduction to the USTA Southern California. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
Q: How important was it for you to study Polynesian History at BYU Hawaii, and what was your inspiration for graduate school?
SN: Studying Polynesian History at BYU-Hawaii was great because I was learning more about my own people’s history. I also learned about its geography, types of islands, and the similarities in languages. Additionally, I was fascinated by their excellence as voyagers, using the Pacific Ocean as their “freeway” to traverse the vast expanse. Their knowledge of using the sun, moon, stars, currents, etc. as GPS for navigation impressed me greatly. The sea served as their refrigerator, the land as their breadbasket, and the water from the mountains as their water supply. These resources continue to be essential on the islands today. My inspiration for graduate school was my father. He was an educator back home, and I aspired to follow in his footsteps. However, I changed my mind while working on my teaching credential in Hawaii. It’s ironic because now I find myself working as a substitute teacher.
Q: What was your first introduction to tennis and when did you fall in love with the game?
SN: My first introduction to tennis was back at home. I used to have a Wilson wooden racquet, and I would go play basketball at Pago Park. I would go early so I could hit against the backboard. I taught myself how to play by hitting against the wall. And I never played against anybody, so I really did not know how good I was until I was reintroduced to tennis at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC). At this time, I had joined the US Army and was stationed at the Presidio of Monterey. At night and on the weekends, I attended MPC. By the time I was transferred, I was a sophomore and had completed all three tennis classes (beginning, intermediate, and advanced). It was at this point that I became hooked on tennis. I know this feeling because when it rains, I get upset because I cannot play. I competed in military tournaments, and I considered my military tennis career to be successful. This was the best skill that I learned from the army. After the Army, I continued playing tennis. This led me to play two years of tennis at Mira Costa College in Oceanside. Since then, I am tennis for life and loving it.
Q: When did you become a teaching pro and what are your keys to teaching the fundamentals of tennis to young people?
SN: I became a teaching pro when I was at BYU-Hawaii. I needed to be certified because I wanted to teach at Turtle Bay Resort. My kids wanted to be on their tennis team, and I did not have the money to pay for it. So, I made a deal with the coach that I could assist with his team and I did not have to pay. But first I need to be certified for liability issues. My teaching fundamentals of tennis to young people: (1) Be fair, (2) Keep it fun and simple, (3) listen and practice skills, (4) move feet and keep eye on the ball, and (5) balance school and social activity.
Q: What are some experiences you enjoyed from a career in Recreation that have helped you as a teacher, mentor, or leader?
SN: My career in recreation has helped me as a teacher, mentor, or leader in dealing with diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) issues. It has made my current job with the STA and as a substitute teacher easier because I had some extra training in dealing with these matters. Also, my experiences are assets to my current jobs and future.
Q: How do you explain to parents and kids exactly what an NJTL is?
SN: The NJTL was/is the best USTA National program because it opens up tennis to low-income communities. It was the first step in introducing tennis to the communities of USTA Southern California. Then to follow up with Junior Team Tennis (JTT) to add some fun competition for the kids. Third, individual participation in Junior sanctioned USTA Southern California tournaments and high school tennis teams. And lastly college scholarship or career as a coach or pro.
Q: What is one thing you’d still like to accomplish either inside or outside of tennis?
SN: Inside of tennis, I would like the STA to go home and become American Samoa STA. Outside of tennis, I would like to continue with my writing and pursue a doctorate degree in Pacific Islands studies with the USP, UH, or BYU.
Q&A with the Noa grandchildren regarding the Polynesian dance.
Question: What are the origins of the dance and the meanings behind its specific moves?
Answer: We do dances from different islands of Polynesia (Fiji, Hawaii, NZ, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa). War Dance (Haka or Siva Tau), Chores, Ceremonial, Events. The dances are descriptions of these events and activities. These dances are an important part of our Polynesian cultures.
Q: When and how did you first learn the dance?
A: Both our mother and grandmother were dancers and tennis players. We all started in tennis. Ages 6/7/9/10 and our grandfather was our coach. Then we moved to Utah where we started to learn how to dance. We did not like being in Utah, and we tried to run away to be with our grandparents. In fact, our papa wrote a book about our escape, called Vavega Ole Taumalulu (The Winter Miracle: A True Story). Isaac was 11 years old when he planned this escape, and he included his two younger brothers, who were seven and 10. The book was published a year ago. Our papa did not like us spending more time dancing than playing tennis.
Q: Why is it important for you to continue dancing and spreading Samoan culture?
A: It is important to us to continue dancing and spreading Samoan culture because we want more people to know about our culture and be our friends.
Q: At what levels of tennis and other sports have you participated as players?
A: Isaac (12) and Araday (9) — varsity tennis. Izzy (7) – tennis. Isaiah (10) – football, varsity volleyball, and basketball.
Q: How important has tennis been in your growth and development as part of the AAPI community?
A: It has been important in our growth and development as part of the AAPI community because we are part of this diversity community, and we are happy and proud to be in a DEI community. We are better people when we understand each other.