Chiara Di Salvo

George Walton Academy tennis coach Chiara Di Salvo won one individual and three team national titles duing her collegiate career at Georgia Gwinnett College.

MONROE — Chiara Di Salvo has had the opportunities to live in different parts or the world, learn a second language, compete as a collegiate student-athlete and work as a high school tennis coach.

That’s not a bad list of accomplishments for only 25 years.

The George Walton Academy boys and girls tennis coach feels at home in Georgia and the United States but it was Argentina where she was raised and developed an appreciation for sports.

“Growing up my parents were always trying to encourage my sister and I do well in sports,” Di Salvo said. “It was a way to have a bright future. “

In Argentina, Di Salvo said the custom is to focus on one sport and try to excel at it. Initially she competed in gymnastics but by age 11, after seven years in that sport, felt there was not a future in it. Di Salvo then turned to tennis.

Di Salvo became strong enough at tennis that she considered turning professional but decided against it to be able to retain her amateur status, attend college in the United States and compete. She signed with Georgia Gwinnett College where she helped the women’s tennis program reach lofty heights by winning three NAIA team national titles.

While competing collegiately, Di Salvo also earned an individual national championship.

The standout player has now moved into coaching and teaching although she does still play competitively on the court as well. Di Salvo played mixed doubles and ladies doubles for the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association.

At GWA she initially coached the Lady Dogs before directing the varsity boys as well. The 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 crisis but both GWA teams were off to strong starts before things came to a halt.

The boys were undefeated in nine matches while the Lady Dogs were 7-1.

“It was just so disappointing to not be able to see this year’s squads be able to keep going,” Di Salvo said. “We only had one senior in the entire program so most everyone will be back.”

Being not much older than her players has been something unique for the GWA coach, who also teaches Spanish to young students.

“I do have a friendship with them,” she said. “However, I make it clear I am their coach so there is a respect level. It is important that they know I am there for them on and off the court. I had a similar experience in college where my coach was not that much older than I was. He was a friend, a mentor, a coach and an older brother so I have tried to use that approach as well.”

Di Salvo resides with her sister currently in Gwinnett County but is planning a move in the future which will put her closer to the GWA campus. Di Salvo’s sister was also a college tennis player at Austin Peay University in Tennessee.

Her parents still live in Argentina.

“Right now, I feel very lucky to be able to share my experienced with my players,” Di Salvo said. “I try to push them to be better, play their best and believe in themselves.”

The coach is completing her third tennis season at GWA. She said seeing her student-athletes enjoy success on the court has been a great joy for her.

“To see them work hard and enjoy winning matches has been something very special,” Di Salvo said.

She said she is thankful for her background and how she can use the experiences she has gone through to help the GWA tennis program.

Chris Bridges is a former sports editor of The Walton Tribune. He writes a weekly column for the Barrow News-Journal.