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Tennis bridges move from Venezuela for Colmenares

Anmar Colmenares shares a light moment during practice with Coach Kelli Collins.
5c7fde4b0ff09Anmar Colmenares shares a light moment during practice with Coach Kelli Collins.
Anmar Colmenares shares a light moment during practice with Coach Kelli Collins.

Anmar Colmenares left the one place she called home for a better future.

Even as a child, growing up in the state of Bolivar, Venezuela, a country fraught with political unrest, violence and unmeasured hunger, Colmenares’ parents knew they needed to find a safer place for their family.

“I left Venezuela because my country is in a crisis,” said the junior tennis player, who is in her second year in the Broken Arrow school district. “There are a lot of bad things going on over there that my parents didn’t want me to go through.

“The Government didn’t help the people. There was no medicine, no food, no water. We just had to leave Venezuela.”

Tennis is the bridge that smoothed the move from one continent to another.

“The language cost me a lot,” said Colmenares, who was actually born in Miami, Fla., but moved to Venezuela when she was two years old.  “It still does. But it’s easier now for me to express myself and make friends and talk to my teachers and understand my team and coach.”

That coach, Kelli Collins, has nothing but praise for the 17-year-old who will play both No. 1 and No. 2 doubles for the Lady Tiger Varsity tennis team this spring.

“I feel very lucky that I get to coach a young lady of her character,” Collins said. “She is so well liked by her teammates. I have had multiple girls ask me if they could play doubles with Anmar.”

Persuaded by her uncle, Colmenares first picked up a tennis racket when she was six years old.

“Tennis wasn’t a really big deal in Venezuela,” said the girl who has idolized Serena Williams since she began playing. “I would watch tennis on TV, and one of my uncles played tennis, and he said ‘Anmar, you should try it.’ I have played tennis ever since.”

Collins noted that Colmenares has “improved so much” in the one year she has been with the team. Whether in Venezuela or Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, it appears as if Colmenares has always pushed herself to get better.

“I try to get a large amount of practice in every day before and after school, and on weekends,” she said. “I like how I can express myself playing tennis. I just feel free when I’m playing, like there is nothing else going on in the world.”

For Anmar Colmenares the game she loves helps ease memories of the home she left.