Talented siblings thankful for
Throughout the show, Banks lent a hand to various guests in pursuit of dreams.
Naseem, Shabnam and Maryam Eslami
are sisters whose family has made major sacrifices working toward the girls'
dream of playing professional tennis and becoming the first Iranian-American
women to win
On the show, the girls and their parents, Ali and Lynnette, were presented with a check for $10,000 to help pay for the costs of training.
The Family got an even bigger surprise when one of their idols, tennis star Venus Williams, came out on stage and gave the family an additional $5000 for each girl, as well as a two-week scholarship to the prestigious Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
"It was a big surprise," said 14 year old Shabnam ("Shabby"). "We didn't expect any of it."
At the beginning of May, the sisters
spent two weeks in
"I can't really credit Tyra and the Williams sisters enough," said Ali, a former body builder who serves as his daughters' manager.
The Eslami sisters trace the beginning of their interest in tennis back to the day they watched Venus and her sister Serena compete in the finals of the U.S. Open back in 2002 when the family was living in Connecticut.
It was then that their dream was born.
Like it did for the Williams sisters
who grew up in
So two years ago, after Ali had lost
his job as a network engineer, he and Lynnette decided to move the girls and
their younger brother Omeed to the
"We're really lucky to have parents
like these." Naseem said. "They just packed everything we had and
moved out here from
Unprepared for the high cost of living, the family financially overwhelmed, and actually spent a couple of weeks living out of their car.
"We were almost homeless," said Ali,
Their prayers were answered when an
application for affordable housing in
"It was like the biggest miracle that could have happened to our family." Ali said.
The producers of "The Tyra Banks Show" aren't the only ones who have taken notice and offered assistance to the Eslamis on their journey to achieving their goals.
Although there may be more public
courts, free of charge for the girls to use here, when they moved to
And when you're practicing four hours a day, working out for two to three and being home-schooled, it isn't all that practical to spend an hour on a park bench, waiting for other players to finish.
Like other athletic clubs where Lynnette has worked, when La Costa Resort heard the Eslamis' story they offered up their courts free of charge whenever they're not being used by members.
Competitive players from throughout the area, like the Altamira Club's Londo Whitaker, take time to hit with the girls for no pay. Whittaker said there's a reason it takes more than one hitting partner to work with the three sisters.
"They hit so many hours that old guys like me can't keep up with them." Said Whittaker, 45. "To keep up with them, I basically have to get a good night's sleep, eat a good meal and have it be the first match in the morning."
Andre Agassi's father and Coach Mike
Agassi, who is also a native of
There, the girls achieved a first in
tennis history as each one championed in their own age group in all four
tournaments. They now travel to
"There are so many good things that have happened in our life that I can't complain about the bad." Ali said.
In a move that mirrors Richard Williams (Venus and Serena's father and manager), Ali says he's not interested in his girls playing the junior circuit. Instead he'd like to see them go straight to the pros.
But for a lack of sponsorship, he thinks Naseem could already be there. The girls also need a coach, a role Ali has been trying to fill himself.
That's another similarity the Eslamis have with the Williams: like Richard Ali has no real tennis background to draw from.
And Ali can't afford to officially belong to any club. The family still has days, every once in a while, like Wednesday when they showed up to practice at La Costa but were told all the courts were being used for a tournament.
Yet Ali is not deterred and is quick to point out how far they've already come.
"I come from a male-dominated country which sport is only for men." he said. "When my daughters were born, my main goal for them was to get involved in sports."
Their heritage has been a big motivating factor for all three sisters. " No one in (my dad's) country can do what we're doing right now," Shabby said. "So hopefully we can change that one day."
Maryam, 13, echoed her sister. " I hope to one day change the pages of history for Iranian women," she said.
Ali is certain that they will. "They are kind of an inspiration for me. It's supposed to be reverse. The parents are supposed to inspire the kids.
... If they keep that passion and desire, I have no doubt that they're gonna make it," Ali said.
... Payvand News - 6/12/06 ... --