Tennis great Peanut Louie Harper on the joy of empowering kids

Peanut Louie Harper, the San Francisco native who played in the U.S. Open tennis tournament just days after turning 16, runs Harper for Kids, a nonprofit that in 2010 has taught life skills to more than 1,500 children. She is a big disciple of legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden and his selfless philosphies.

Who had the biggest influence on you in your life?

My parents have had the biggest influence on me in my life. Especially now that I’m a parent, I can see that a lot of the values they instilled in me are the same ones my husband, Tim, and I try to instill in our two children, Casey and Jared. I have three older sisters and a brother, and our parents were pretty strict, especially when it came to having good manners and being respectful to others. My dad was really supportive of our tennis, but my mom was the one who really loved tennis and taught us all how to play.

To whom do you turn in tough times?

I turn to my husband, our two children, my family and a few close friends.

Where do you find inspiration?

What inspires me daily is coach John Wooden’s philosophy and our work with our nonprofit organization, Harper for Kids [www.harperforkids.org] and teaching children about coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. My friend Steve Jamison co-authored several books with coach Wooden, and I can pick up any one of them and be inspired by his timeless words of wisdom. … I love his definition of success: peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable. There isn’t a definition more inspiring to me than that.

What one particular philanthropic are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of the relationships Harper for Kids has developed with several elementary schools in San Francisco and the organizations we’ve partnered with to make it all come together. The schools have been very supportive of our Inch and Miles Sportsmanship Festival program where we’ve introduced children, parents and teachers to coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. To see it develop into something that inspires them as much as it inspires us is a great feeling.

Is giving at this time of year different than other times? Does it bring added pressure? Added rewards?

I think in general, during the holiday season, people are mindful about “giving” if they can. I enjoy the holidays personally because it’s a great excuse to find extra time to enjoy with your family and friends, and that’s a gift in itself.

How do you see your role in the world?

To be able to help children through our Harper for Kids organization is pretty special. It’s something I love working on and thinking about every day.

Do you still play tennis?

I still enjoy playing tennis with my husband, Tim, my family and a few friends. Most of my pro tennis friends never touch a racquet once they retire from the Women’s Tennis Association Tour.

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