Koko Makrygiannis

Koko Makrygiannis, pictured here with Los Angeles High tennis coach Luke Arong, started a foundation, Sharing The LovelTeam Tennis, giving back to schools within the LAUSD. Photo courtesy of Koko Makrygiannis:

Tennis coach Mike Hoeger credits senior Koko Makrygiannis as a key reason Peninsula won the 2019 CIF Open Division girls’ tennis championship.

It was something that happened during Makrygiannis’ sophomore year that Hoeger and others recall when they hear her name.

After finishing up against Inglewood during the Bay League doubles championships in October 2017, Makrygiannis approached the coach, asking if there was anything she could do to help the team.

“When we played them, their racquets were frayed, and their strings were loose,” Makrygiannis said.

From there, it began at the Kramer Club, with Makrygiannis doing a collection and hosting Inglewood players for a workout in February 2018.

“There were some coaches at the Kramer Club who agreed to do lessons and help facilitate the workouts,” Makrygiannissaid. “From there, it turned into a foundation.”

Those few days during her sophomore sparked Makrygiannis’ foundation, Sharing the Love|Team Tennis. Inglewood was the first school Makrygiannis aided, but it wasn’t the last.

After partnering with the Los Angeles Unified School District, she delivered tennis kits to Gardena, Santee, Los Angeles, Rancho Dominguez, Bell, John Fremont and Downtown Magnet, among others, over the last two years.

The kits include 12 quality racquets with new strings and grips, 12 cans of new match balls, practice balls, sunscreen and a USTA Coaches Resource Manual.

What stood out to LAUSD Interscholastic Athletic Specialist David Siedelman was Makrygiannis’ desire to help.

“When she initially told me about how she created the foundation, that she saw the poverty and she wanted to give back, I wanted to make sure we got schools involved where the coach took care of the equipment and the students appreciated it,” Makrygiannis said.

Makrygiannis and Siedelman met during a kit delivery to Downtown Magnet, and Siedelman recalled the students being thrilled to receive the kits.

“The kids at Downtown Magnet didn’t know what to expect,” Siedelman said. “When she presented the kit, and showed them the racquets, they were fighting over which ones they wanted. It’s impressive to see a teenage girl care so much to give back.”

Driving into the inner city, Makrygiannis said, opened her eyes to things away from the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

“We live in our own little bubble on the hill, and sometimes we’re not aware of what’s going on outside of our community,” Makrygiannis said. “We don’t see how fortunate we are.”

Makrygiannis, who will attend the University of Michigan in the fall, already has someone else to hand the foundation off to once she leaves for Ann Arbor.

“I’ve formed a team with other high school students, and I have one in line to take over when I leave,” Makrygiannis said. “The plan is to hand it down.

When it came time for Peninsula to announce its annual Athlete of the Year awardees, Makrygiannis didn’t expect her name to be anywhere in the conversation.

“There were a lot of two-sport athletes going to (NCAA) Division 1 colleges, and I thought I had no chance,” Makrygiannis said. “I was surprised when they called my name for Captain of the Year.”

Hoeger, who nominated Makrygiannis, saw someone he could frequently rely on when it came time for a match.

“She was able to keep the team together and help them believe when we had to play so often without our top two players,” Hoeger said. “Koko helped me figure out the ever shifting lineups, and having her as a captain for both her junior and senior years allowed her to emerge as a player/coach.”

Makrygiannis and her doubles partner, Cydney Yamamoto, swept their matches against University in the Open Division Championship.

“Simply put, Koko is the reason we won CIF,” Hoeger said.

And she’s given hope to other schools with aspirations of winning a CIF championship someday.

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