There are prominent last names, and then there is Stephen Lhuillier’s. His is particularly notable, if only because it’s one that you will see in just about every other street in the Philippines. He is of the Lhuilliers that own arguably the largest pawnshop chain in the country. With that alone, this 16-year-old high school sophomore can already rest on his laurels. But Stephan isn’t one to let that define him; even at a young age, he’s out there trying to make his own mark.
Stephan happens to be an accomplished tennis player (this summer, he’s spending his free time competing in Fiji and Hong Kong) and has used his skills to start his own advocacy. Through the help of his father’s company, Cebuana Lhuillier, Stephan has helped make the Pinoy Tennis Trainer Program a reality. It aims to help local tennis instructors improve in their teaching, and eventually give them the chance to become professional tennis coaches. In his own way, Stephan is improving his own game as well as that of others around him.
Over post-tennis ice creams in his usual country club, Young STAR speaks to the budding athlete to talk about his advocacy, his love for music, and what he likes to do when he’s not on the court.
YOUNG STAR: Hey, Stephan. What are you busy with these days?
STEPHAN LHUILLIER: Um, these days I just play tennis. I do band, I play the saxophone. I’ve been playing the sax since fifth grade.
I know you also play tennis. How do you split your time between them?
Oh, I prioritize tennis more than the sax, so I make more time for tennis rather than playing my instrument.
I know we’re here to talk about your tennis, so tell us about how you first started getting into it. What made you wanna take it up?
When I was eight years old, prior to playing tennis, I played golf. But then, I kind of got burned out, so then I started to play tennis. My whole family was playing tennis, so it was only right for me to play, too.
Through the help of his father’s company, Cebuana Lhuillier, Stephan has helped make the Pinoy Tennis Trainer Program a reality. It aims to help local tennis instructors improve in their teaching, and eventually give them the chance to become professional tennis coaches.
Do you still get to play with your family?
Yes. I play doubles with my dad every so often. And my little brother plays also, and then my younger two siblings play golf, so yeah.
I know that you like it so much you started an advocacy to train others in tennis. Can you tell me about that more?
Yes, the Pinoy Tennis Trainer Program is a program that aims to develop trainers and to give them the knowledge and skills for them to hopefully turn into tennis coaches. And that will also uplift their lives, because with that knowledge, they can use it to earn more. Because even if they earn, like, P100 or P200 pesos, that’s still a lot for them. If you multiply that by the hours, it adds up and it can help them.
Why did you start the advocacy for trainers rather than students? Why did you want to empower the trainers more?
Because the students, it’s not their life. For some trainers, it is their life. And we want to give them a boost in their job. It’s kind of like a promotion, but not really a promotion.
So how do you help out?
I’m there supervising.
STEPHAN’S COMPANION: Actually, he helps train them some of the days. Because the past two sessions, he still had school. But hopefully, in the future, he’ll be more active. Let’s say it’s a 12-hour course, for three to four hours, he’ll help teach. And of course everything — the resources comes from him and the family also. He’s been soliciting rackets from their friends, his dad’s friends.
How do you train a trainer to teach tennis?
STEPHAN: There’s a module for that developed by the head coach for this program. The tennis trainer has to meet all of the requirements and finish the program in order to graduate and to receive the certificate. So it’s official.
What else would you like to do to help the state of tennis in the Philippines right now?
Right now, maybe we’ll focus on this one first. And then, after, we can go bigger. Maybe we can have, like, tournaments for the trainers or, you know, we can bring in some of the top Philippine players to come and play with them and whatnot.
How do you chill out? What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not training?
When I’m not training…
Are you studying?