We had the good fortune of connecting with Sabastiani Leon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sabastiani, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk runs in my bloodline. Even before my existence, my family made high-risk decisions that would alter their lives, fortunately for the better. In the 1800s, my ancestors took the risk of migrating to Latin America for business opportunities. During WWII, my grandmother took the risk of immigrating to Mexico for survival. My parents took the leap of faith and moved to the United States to give my brother and I more opportunities. When I was thirteen years old, my parents asked me what my intentions were in regards to tennis. I told them I wanted to play at a Division I university and pursue professional tennis. I remember how uncertain they were, considering we did not have as much knowledge and experience as other top players. They told me that we would need to work hard, study more, and make sacrifices. I took their advice to heart- when I was 17 years old, I signed the National Letter of Intent to compete for San Jose State University under a fully funded athletic scholarship. I was filled with emotion; I could not believe that I achieved the goal that I set for myself four years prior. And now, ten years later, I am currently playing professional tournaments and have three professional doubles championship titles, all played in different countries. Taking any kind of risks will be scary, especially because it is unknown if there will even be a reward at the end. However, taking risks are essential to achieving great things. Although success will never be guaranteed at the end of the journey, I still find it essential to put your time and effort into researching to increase the chances of success. Without risks, you will never know what you are capable of achieving.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a professional tennis player with a passion to coach players to achieve their tennis goals. What sets me apart from other coaches is that I can relate to the players, especially on a deeper level. Tennis is an individual sport that require players to adapt, problem solve, and control their emotions on their own in order to win. I am proud to share my story with others, especially being a first generation athlete. My parents were merely tennis fanatics that picked up this hobby when they were in their 20’s and discovered how important the sport was in improving their physical and mental health. They introduced the sport to me at a very young age, and I was fortunate to have their support when I decided to take tennis seriously by competing at a high level. We worked as a team and sacrificed a lot to find ways to improve my game, fitness, and nutrition. We tried to keep an open mind when someone was kind to give us advice. The road to get to where I am currently has not been easy. I sacrificed many social events growing up in order to compete on the weekends. After school, I’d spend hours on court training until I had a solid foundation of the basic groundstrokes. Tennis is a fine motor skill sport that requires a lot of repetitive movements in order to have that muscle memory established. Without the determination from my parents and the encouraging words from friends, I would have never made it this far. Their words outshine the negative opinions and self-doubt that I could have easily fall victim to. After graduating high school, I was ready for the next step in my career as a collegiate athlete. I faced even more adversities that forced me to mature quickly as a person. I was emotionally and physically exhausted towards the end of my collegiate career. I was close to quitting the sport entirely. After graduating, I took a few months to find my inspiration to continue playing. Later that year, I found my desire to play again and started my professional career. With my experience, I wish to share my wisdom to my students so they can learn and excel. I would have never achieved many of these tennis accomplishments without the help of the people around me. Ultimately, I am glad that I took the risk to commit to this sport 100%. With each triumph in my career, I constantly see myself growing closer to my ultimate goal. Tennis has taught me to be open-minded, persistent, positive, disciplined, humble, patient, and appreciative. I want to share to the world that you do not have to be naturally gifted to excel in anything you choose to pursue. Nothing beats a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and persistence. These characteristics will put you in a situation of opportunity. It is up to you to take advantage of the opportunity.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Diego is one of the most diverse cities in the country, providing its tourists and locals different cultures in one city. The first place I would take my best friend would be the Gaslamp Quarter. It’s the best place for a nice dinner and a bit of nightlife. The best place to overlook Petco Park is the Altitude Sky Lounge on the roof of the Marriott. It is actually one of my favorite places to go and enjoy the evening with friends. Little Italy is an area perfect to stroll through. It is home to many of the best restaurants in town. For breakfast, I would stand in line for hours at Morning Glory. The atmosphere of the restaurant is indescribable. For dessert, I would take my best friend to Extraordinary Desserts. I hope they have loose fitted clothing on! Since we are close to the border of Mexico, I would also introduce my best friend to Barrio Logan, where some local artists expose and sell their art. Then, we would stop for some amazing tacos at the restaurant SALUD. If they want to be submerged into the Mexican culture with Mariachis, Old Town is a great place to find typical Mexican culture and cuisine. Liberty Station is a cool place to walk around and try different cuisines since there’s so many to choose from. The interesting thing about Liberty Station is that it used to be a naval training center. I’m sure that would be a subject my best friend would share with friends back home. If my best friend is feeling more for Asian cuisine, I’d take them to Kearny Mesa and explore all the bubble milk teas Convoy has to offer. Enough about eating… my best friend wants to do something more active. I’d take them to Ho Chi Minh Trail in La Jolla. A scary trail to walk on, but they love challenges. We would eventually walk through La Jolla Cove to observe the plant life and the seals laying in the sun. Getting up close and personal with the caves in La Jolla are worth visit. There are also some hidden gems in San Diego. One is the secret swing by the Birch Aquarium, with the design of the swing changing from time to time. It’s certainly the perfect place to take pictures. They better be ready for the breath taking view of San Diego on top of Mt. Soledad, also serving as a national memorial for veterans. Moving onto Coronado Island – its a beautiful city to walk and enjoy the beaches. Don’t forget, its a must to visit Hotel Del Coronado, which first opened in 1888, making it one of the oldest resorts in the city The San Diego Zoo is known to be one of the best in the world, so I’d take my best friend there too if they were interested in observing animals. The last place I’d take my best friend is to hike through the Torrey Pines Reserve. With the breath taking views, the hike would seem very enjoyable!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate my shoutout to all the individuals that have helped me throughout my development as a player and as a person. This includes my family, friends, and even the strangers playing on the court beside me giving me any kind of advice to help improve my game.
Tennis Association of Trinidad and Tobago, Akilah James