My Daughter, My Role Model
She Brought Out My Inner Athlete
Gabi Rose, 45
Rachel Rosenthal, 13
Pembroke Pines, Florida
Six years ago, when Gabi Rose enrolled her 7-year-old daughter, Rachel, in tennis classes, she had no illusions about creating the next Serena Williams.
The twice-weekly lessons, which had been suggested by Rachel's school counselor as a way to help the girl focus, were more like a last-ditch effort. Rachel was having regular meltdowns in the classroom and her grades had plummeted. The unacknowledged culprit behind the behavior? Her weight, a problem she had in common with her mother. Rachel, a second-grader, was so heavy she bought her jeans in the women's department, while Gabi weighed nearly 260 pounds.
At first Rachel was the slowest player on the court and regularly broke into tears. But with her mom on the sidelines, shouting encouragement, she gradually stopped dreading her lessons. "I started to hit more and to follow what the coaches said," Rachel says. Best of all, she lost weight -- 50 pounds in all.
Most of Rachel's teammates were enrolled in the class because they had parents who were tennis fanatics. Gabi, on the other hand, had never even swung a racket. But she was soon inspired by her daughter's success. "Tennis transformed Rachel so completely that I decided I should learn," she says. "I joined a beginner class and ended up liking it." Before long her husband and another of the couple's four children took up the game, and the family began spending Saturdays on the court.
Now 130 pounds, Gabi plays tennis every week, but she's no match for Rachel. The seventh-grade honors student competes with a college-level tennis team that practices four hours a day. The upshot? Gabi can't even get to the balls Rachel slams across the net. But she still loves to try.