I struggled a lot in school. In fact, looking back, I honestly believe that my primary school provided the most dismal environment. It was such a dull and depressing building, and there was nothing positive it offered that really engaged me to learn.
However, it was when I was about eight or nine years old and in the third grade that I remember things did look up for a while. It was all down to my form teacher, Miss Roskavich, a lovely lady, who always seemed to have my back. Sadly, I have no idea if she is still alive these days, but I have fond memories of her kindness towards me.
I was already playing tennis by that age; in fact, I’d been playing for a few years, but was often distracted both out of school and in the classroom. I remember being constantly bored at school, yet Miss Roskavich was the only teacher that didn’t judge me. When I lacked interest or failed to do my school work properly, she pushed me to do better rather than tell me off. She always told me I was capable of giving more – both to my studies and my outlook on life in general. I am so thankful someone believed in me during those years, as it was a difficult time playing tennis and then trying to focus at school.
I was constantly exhausted from the sport and my grades kept slipping. I remember always feeling frustrated, not only with the other teachers but with both my father and coach at the time, who made me play so much tennis. In my autobiography, Open, I vividly recounted my struggles in school. In some ways Miss Roskavich helped me to be more resilient and allowed me the space I needed to develop as a tennis player, without neglecting my formal education.
I did have a love for reading books, but, again, had trouble concentrating on them. Miss Roskavich often tried to help me relax and focus better, as I think she knew things were difficult for me.
It didn’t help that there were thousands of kids in my school; I was often driven to distraction and had started to become uncooperative. I think the worst time was in sixth grade, at around the age of 11, when my behaviour became quite naughty.
My formal education stopped when I was 14 – in ninth grade – amid numerous factors that included my soaring tennis talent and my irritation with school. I’d had enough of feeling stupid, so I left and went on to pursue my tennis career.
However, one of the good things to come out of my schooling experience was that I had empathy with the plight of children who aren’t doing well in school. This enabled me to set up my foundation schools for underprivileged children and the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education to improve the lives of kids in general through education, recreation and social services.
When I agreed to coach Novak Djokovic this year, one of the main reasons our relationship worked was because we both trusted each other. I trusted him to listen to my advice and he trusted me to give it.
I think one of the reasons I remember Miss Roskavich over 30 years later is because I trusted she cared for me.
Andre Agassi is the ambassador for the Italian coffee brand Lavazza. He was talking to Suzanne Baum