1 of 2
Photo by Bill Roseberry
Donato Campagnoli, a tennis coach for the Italian Tennis Federation, brought a group of Italians to visit Edwardsville and play tennis. (Seated in front, from left) Giulio Campagnoli, 9, Gabriele Montanari, 15, Ludovica Tranǒ, 12, Federico Roversi, 13, and Gustavo Campagnoli, 12; (seated in back, from left) Luciana Bulgarelli, Donato Campagnoli and Maura Guaitoli.
2 of 2
Photo by Bill Roseberry
Donato Campagnoli introduces himself and the group of fellow Italians to the Edwardsville Tennis Academy during a short ceremony on June 28.
Edwardsville High tennis coach Dave Lipe started the Edwardsville Futures pro tennis tournament in 2011. The opportunities opening from that decision have transcended the tennis courts.
During that first year, a friendship formed between Lipe and Donato Campagnoli, an Italian tennis coach who entered a player in that inaugural Futures tournament. Since then, Lipe and Campagnoli have kept in correspondence, with Campagnoli sending his son Gustavo to visit Edwardsville the last two summers. This summer Lipe sent his son Seth the other way for a visit.
On Seth’s return from Italy, he brought back Campagnoli and a delegation of Italians with him. Campagnoli brought his mother, Maura Guaitoli; his mother-in-law, Luciana Bulgarelli; and five kids with him to learn some Edwardsville hospitality.
“Making friends from another culture and being able to learn about that culture — connecting through the great international sport of tennis — has been a fruitful endeavor for the growth of these kids and just as importantly it’s been a lot of fun,” Dave Lipe said. “To forge friendships that can last a lifetime has been a very meaningful experience for the kids and for the adults, too.”
For Campagnoli, meeting Lipe in 2011 was kind of an accident, but quickly turned into a wonderful opportunity. It’s been the type of relationship the instructor from the Italian Tennis Federation looks forward to in his travels.
“The first guy we met in 2011 was Dave, who was the director of the tournament,” Campagnoli said. “We kept in touch and Gustavo at that time was 7 and wanted to play tennis the next day. Dave offered Gustavo to play in his camp and he played the next day, we kept in touch exchanging emails. The player I coached played in the tournament. Then in 2014 I sent Gustavo over alone for the experience; he was 10 and it was great. Same thing last year and this year we decided to come over with an invasion of Italian players and adults.”
Giulio Campagnoli, 9, and Gustavo Campagnoli, 12, are back in Edwardsville, accompanied by Gabriele Montanari, 15, Ludovica Tranǒ, 12, and Federico Roversi, 13. It’s the first visit to the United States for Roversi and Tranǒ.
“First time in America; everything is cool, everything is wonderful,” Tranǒ said via Donato Campagnoli as her translator. “I came here with people I know already, so I’m comfortable for my first experience and having a chance to play a sport I like, which is tennis.”
Lipe has an English teacher working with the kids to help make their time in Edwardsville more comfortable. The language barrier can be a problem.
“The big shock for me was not being able to speak the language,” Tranǒ said. “There are many problems in the ways that I can’t make myself understandable yet.”
Yet is the key word. Lipe and Campagnoli hope the kids can pick up some English quickly to make their visit more comfortable. But there is one language that is universal for the Edwardsville kids and the Italians alike, and it happens to be a language Lipe and Campagnoli speak very fluently.
“Sports is a universal language,” Lipe said. “If you take soccer players from Argentina and put them on the pitch in England, they’re going to be able to play together and the same thing with tennis here. The kids from Italy; I have a lot easier time communicating with them about tennis. I can communicate with them about their serve and they instantly can see what I’m talking about, and talking about other things isn’t always as easy. Our game is international and it’s great.”
Tranǒ added, “Through tennis I can meet new people and that’s the big opportunity that we have, sharing this sport, which is a universal language for everyone.”
Seth Lipe said communication was a barrier for him in Italy, but he thought it was a great lesson in independence and agreed tennis is the common bond.
“I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone in Italy and it will be good for their independence to experience America,” Seth said. “They have each other, but they are younger than I am so it’s probably equally as hard. It’s just a good experience for both of us.
“It’s a whole new world. Whenever I went to Italy it was rough. The first three days I felt homesick and actually the second and third days were the toughest days, but whenever I played tennis it was reminding me of home and that was helping me actually.”
As for Edwardsville’s comparison to Modena, Italy, where the group is from, they feel pretty comfortable in America’s Heartland.
“Actually the translation of my last name is country man, so our origins are from the countryside,” Campagnoli said. “Edwardsville is exactly what we wanted. We don’t like the big cities ... we want to meet people, we want to share and get a feeling of the American culture. It’s the reason why we are here. We like skyscrapers, but only for shopping; it’s much more important to come over and meet people and have these events.”
On the tennis front there is plenty to be learned from both sides. Campagnoli’s experience is a huge benefit for the Edwardsville community.
“It’s terrific to have a coach from the Italian Tennis Federation here,” Lipe said. “He’s a prominent coach who has coached on four continents; he’s a clinician. He teaches people how to teach tennis and that’s important.
“I’ve learned a lot from Donato and I learn a lot from the coaches that come through for our pro tournament. Some I learn a little, some I learn a lot, but I’ve learned a lot from Donato and I think he’s taking some things from what we do here.”
The Italian/Edwardsville connection is going strong and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, especially as long as Lipe and Campagnoli have anything to say about it.
“We are going to try and set up the exchange for next year and you never know,” Campagnoli said. “Maybe we can have many kids from Edwardsville going over and many kids from Italy coming over here, which is the goal of the whole experience.”