Life Lessons From the Court

By Angela Greco


Despite having to relocate due to the pandemic, former women’s tennis strength training coach Sasha Holub Filistovich has gathered numerous life lessons to take with her, many of which she learned from an unlikely location: the tennis courts.

Former City College of San Francisco tennis player, Sasha Holub, after tennis practice. She is the college’s current strength tennis coach for the Rams. (Photo Courtesy of Coach Kelly Hickey/CCSF Women’s Tennis)

Ever since Holub Filistovich’s arrival to the states in 2014, perseverance has been just one of her many strengths. Not only did she learn to speak English through City College’s English as a Second Language (ESL) courses and a handful of odd jobs, she also submerged herself in the campus community, developing a lifelong affection for tennis and fitness. 


When Holub Filistovich accepted head coach Kelly Hickey’s offer to join the team as a strength trainer and assistant coach in 2019, the women’s team smashed through a promising season when they went undefeated with a 10-0 record –– the best in the state.


Despite discovering her love for the sport later than most other players, Holub Filistovich applied her steadfast persistence to the game and advanced quickly. By her second year on the team, she became the most improved and qualified for state.


Given the amount of progress she made despite personal challenges, Hickey recognized Holub Filistovich as a great success story. “She played a vital role. She was a key to our success [during that] year,” 


Having her on board allowed Hickey to focus on drilling and strategy while Holub Filistovich was tuned in to their strength and speed; she would notice if they were getting to the ball a half step faster or serving harder. 


Because Holub Filistovich had a natural knack for fitness balanced with a competitive streak, her commitment to drills with the girls, strength training, and helping them believe in their own bodies showed immensely on the court. 


Holub Filistovich applied that same level of endurance in her personal life, even off the court. She woke up at 4 a.m. every day, took clients at a gym in the Marina District between practice with the team, finished most days with dance classes, and somehow managed to even squeeze in time as a teacher’s assistant in boxercise class. 


“The life of Sasha was crazy,” she laughed, “but I loved everything. I knew what I was getting into. But that’s what kept me going. I had the support of my friends and family and had the drive for that.”


One of the many friends she met through City College who became like family, Anna Voloshko, reflected on Holub Filistovich’s inspiring work ethic and how it personally influenced her beyond tennis.


“The actual exercises she would lead us through and the tips she gave us about fitness and health were very helpful for playing, but her contagious energy and enthusiasm made me a better overall athlete.” 


Although COVID-19 cut the team’s momentum short, Holub Filistovich’s legacy lives on in the history of the team’s success. 


Always quick to find “the beauty in ugliness,” she draws a correlation between tennis and life, saying that there is always something to learn on and off the court. Reflecting back on her first years playing she said, “You don’t simply perfect something and you’re good to go. There’s still a lot to do, a lot to learn.”


Perhaps subconsciously falling in line with this mentality, she manages to stay refreshingly optimistic about her post-pandemic adjustments. She and her husband bid the city farewell in late October, but she holds hope for a promising future in which she plans to eventually train clientele in her own home gym.


In her new surroundings outside of Dallas, Texas, temperatures have been dropping. But Holub Filistovich is thriving, taking daily walks in the cold air, weather reminiscent of her childhood in Belarus. The move has allowed her to create a new chapter in life, and reclaim being a cold-weather girl at heart.


“It’s going to be different in the upcoming years. It’ll be interesting to see the community and the college … the makeup and the landscape of the city,” Coach Hickey said. “Sasha will always be with us. She’s always part of the Rams family.”


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