Serving to inspire

Oatis pushes forward despite his eye condition


Physical hardships mean nothing when you have the heart and courage of a warrior.

At birth, freshman Garret Khalil Oatis was diagnosed with Oculocutaneous Albinism, a rare condition that causes a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes. Sight from distance is also challenging.

“I can still focus my vision in whatever direction I look; it just means my actual eyeballs move back and forth,” Oatis said. “My eyes are also a little more sensitive to bright lights so when it’s sunny outside, I wear a hat.”

Despite the adversity he faces, Oatis still competes on the boys JV tennis team.

“I wanted to play tennis because I would always watch it on TV with my grandma,” Oatis said. “I remember instantly taking a liking to the sport and always wanting to play it.”

Oatis prides himself on working hard and improving bit-by-bit.

Others are taking notice.

“His perseverance to participate on the team is very inspiring,” junior teammate Darius Woods said. “Despite his condition, he shows up to practice every day and plays his hardest like the rest of us. We wouldn’t be a team without him.”

Oatis didn’t learn hard work overnight.

The people in his corner have been there every step of the way.

“My family taught me how to work hard because they want me to be successful, especially because of my condition,” Oatis said.

Head Coach Mike Rende says he appreciates Oatis’ personality and work ethic.

“Kahlil has been great to coach; he’s very smart, funny, and takes instruction very well,” Rende said. “He has progressed very quickly, more quickly than other beginners on the team.”

Angel Stapleton, who Oatis calls his vision teacher, means a lot to him.

“She’s been with me ever since first grade; she actually taught me about my condition,” Oatis said. “Along with her, my parents and grandma have been really supportive of me.”

Balancing sports and academics can be difficult for any athlete.

Oatis, however, doesn’t let it affect him.

“I’m a freshman and this is my first time playing a sport, but as always academics come first, especially with finals and AP exams coming up,” Oatis said. “I’m actually late to practice sometimes because I go to review sessions for the AP exam.”

Having the right mind set on and off the court can go a long way, but having a good bond with your teammates is a way of maintaining that success.

Junior teammate Kevin Blacke says that he has a good connection with Oatis.

“I’d say that I talk to Kahlil the most out of everybody,” Blacke said. “We mostly joke with each other and give each other advice.”

A heavy dose of motivation is what Oatis uses to grind day in and day out.

According to Oatis, serving as an inspiration to other people is something he’d be honored by.

“I think that if people heard that I’m playing tennis under my circumstances and they’re afraid of doing something then they might consider me a hero,” Oatis said. “There was nothing that was going to stop me from playing, I really didn’t care what anyone else thought.”