Doug Robinson: It's more than just the tennis

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12 2014 6:05 a.m. MDT

His conversations with the kids covers it all. He discusses their aspirations and urges them to create a plan to make them happen. He talks about the importance of making good choices. He talks about the importance of respect and simple manners and the wisdom of listening. He teaches them techniques for remembering the names of people they have just met, service to others and “everything they will encounter in life.”

He is often offered money for his work, but he always refuses. As he explains it, “I tell the parents, ‘My contract is not with you, it’s with the child.’ I teach the kids to make choices. The parent makes the choice to trust them to me.”

Bachiller grew up in what he calls the slums of Washington, D.C., one of two children born to Filipino immigrants. His father earned his citizenship by joining the U.S. Navy as a teenager and wound up serving 27 years, eventually becoming a White House chef for presidents Truman and Eisenhower. His mother survived the brutal Japanese occupation during World War II. The Bachillers had little money when they settled in Washington, and life was rough for young Ray. He was beaten by local gangs for resisting their invitations to join their ranks. He recalls that he never had his own bed; he slept on a cot under the kitchen table. He taught himself English out of comic books.

Bachiller was a Navy ROTC student at the University of South Carolina and joined the Marines upon graduation. He earned a reputation for his work ethic and was given command assignments with as many as 11,000 men under his authority at one time: “They plugged me in wherever they wanted a minority,” he says.

He was assigned as an aide to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His roommate was Colin Powell, who was then an aide to the secretary of defense. He also served as a White House social aide: “I was a potted plant decoration for social occasions — a minority Marine,” he says wryly. His career took him to 146 countries.

He tried to retire in 2000, but he was convinced to accept another assignment, this time as the No. 2 military representative in heading up security efforts for the Salt Lake City Olympics. He retired from the Marines after the Olympics, but he accepted assignments as a senior security consultant for the Olympic Games in Athens and Torino.

He also received a personal phone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking him to serve as a senior adviser to the minister of defense in the Iraqi government: “I had known her when she was a national security adviser and she remembered me,” he says.

While he was in Iraq, he contracted severe respiratory illnesses from Iraqi sandstorms. He returned to his home in Utah while his wife was serving overseas.

“I’m a good Catholic, but the local (LDS Church) ward took care of me,” he says. “I have a very healthy respect and love for the LDS Church, as well as my Catholic Church.”

He began teaching free tennis lessons in his adopted home in 2004 and has been doing so ever since. He originally began playing tennis when he was stationed in Washington early in his military career. He was told he needed to take up a sport to move in military circles, and he chose tennis.

“I taught myself to play out of a book,” he says. “I’ve never had a tennis lesson.”

He tried out for the Marine Corps tennis team six weeks later and beat the No. 4 player. He played on the team for eight years. He has taught tennis lessons for most of the past 40 years, including the group lessons in Utah for a decade.

The group lessons end when school starts, so the kids can play for school teams and he can coach his high school team, but he continues to monitor their grades. If any of his students have academic trouble, he arranges for them to meet with a tutor – usually a former tennis student.

Just don’t make the mistake of trying to pay him for his efforts. There is only one payment he welcomes: “I accept the appreciation of parents and students,” he says.

Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: drob@deseretnews.com

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