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Players of Pride Hall: Carlos Aguilar ’73

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This is the 5th article in Players of Pride Hall, a subsection of Bears Doing Big Things, celebrating the stories of notable M-A alumni in the Hall of Fame.

Carlos Aguilar ‘73, inducted into the Hall of Fame in the inaugural year (1994), has made his mark on M-A through his success in tennis and years of coaching.

Aguilar attended Peninsula School from when he moved to Menlo Park in fourth grade until eighth grade. Peninsula, he said, “Was known as a hippie school because there was no dress code, no grades, and lots of kids went barefoot or had long hair. My initial adjustment to M-A was extreme, to say the least.”

Aguilar’s band in the yearbook

At M-A, Aguilar played guitar for his band called Crossroads at local school dances and private parties.

Coming from a small middle school, Aguilar struggled to find a friend group until he started playing tennis. He said, “During junior year, more people started to talk to me, even from the popular groups. Turned out that they grew up playing tennis and admired the fact that I improved so much. A lot of those people have become my lifelong friends, and we even have our 50th anniversary this November.”

Growing up, Aguilar’s dad was a tennis fan and player. However, Aguilar said, “He didn’t know how to teach, and I didn’t know how to play. We would go to the local tennis club together. One time, an ex-marine came over and talked to my dad. I had long hair down to my shoulders, and I was thinking, ‘What did I do wrong?’ Turns out, he wanted to give me a lesson, and he did. In one hour, I went through two grocery carts full of tennis balls. He was teaching me a shot called the slice backhand; I made only two in that hour. From then on, I was hooked. I just kept playing and playing every day.” During his sophomore year, Aguilar would try out for the tennis team.

While Aguilar, “barely made the team,” he said, “the next year, I got better. I went to band practice less, but that was okay.”

Aguilar played on the varsity tennis team during his four years at the University of California, Berkeley. Staying motivated with tennis during college came easy for Aguilar. He said, “I think because I took it up so late, tennis stayed brand new to me. Everyone had started playing when they were five or six years old, but I started when I was 15. Even still, it’s my favorite form of exercise.”

Aguilar graduated expecting to go into teaching. “My coach always told me, ‘Someone had to play with you when you were no good, so keep that in mind as you get better,’’ he said, “To give back, I decided I was going to be a teacher. But, in my senior year in college, there was little money and job opportunities for teaching in the area, so I decided to coach.”

On balancing academics with being on a collegiate team, he said, “It was far easier back in the ‘70s. Today, if you’re on a varsity team in high school or college, you might have conditioning in the morning and afternoon practice. In college, it’s a minimum of 20 hours a week. If your major is engineering, you basically cannot play on the tennis team.”

Aguilar at Wimbledon, 1981

He chose to continue with his tennis career professionally first and played on the Tennis Tour from 1970 to 1979. He said, “Other players liked all the travel on the Tour, but I didn’t. I still continued to play on and off at a lot of professional tournaments in Northern California. In ‘81, I was working at a startup and hadn’t been on vacation in two years. So I took a trip to England to play in the qualifiers for Wimbledon and tour London. I ended up getting into the tournament and playing John McEnroe, who won the tournament. I played other tournaments like the Irish Open and won, so I was able to play professionally and maintain a world ranking.”

Once Aguilar settled down, he started his family and began working in the real estate business. He explained, “I started working at a residential real estate company, traveling, and having children. I’ve been in this business for 32 years. Real estate kept me home and allowed me to teach all my kids every sport because my job allowed my afternoons to be free. I’d like to think my children had a father who spent more time with them than any other father. While I did sometimes have to work on weekends, I was able to coach my kids many days a week. It was a great trade-off and was very flexible.”

Tennis has had a lasting impact on Aguilar. He said, “I’m very competitive, I’m a perfectionist, and I hate to lose more than I like to win. That translates to business, especially real estate because you’re always competing to get a listing or a buyer.”

Aguilar and his co-coach Tom Sorenson

Alongside his real estate career, Aguilar began coaching tennis for the boys and girls M-A tennis teams in 2000 and continues to be involved. He reflected, “My co-coach and I have won the League Championships consecutively for the past 11 years. One of our boys won the CCS singles championship, and last year our girls won the CCS doubles.”

Aguilar was inducted into the M-A Hall of Fame in 1994. On the process of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Aguilar recalled, “It was very exciting because I had to give a speech, and I’m not a speech giver. I looked down and saw Lindsey Buckingham, the founder of Fleetwood Mac, which was a surreal moment.”

Aguilar’s love for teaching always came naturally to him. He explained, “In college, we had to do community service for a class. My friend and I went to a local school and tutored underprivileged kids, and I really enjoyed that. But also, a few years back, I found my birth family and discovered I was the oldest of six kids. Turns out, one of my sisters is a teacher, and my father loved sports and was a great basketball coach. So, it just felt like it was in my genetics.” 

Aguilar’s advice to current student-athletes: “A lot of really good players are trying to decide on colleges, and they might have their eyes set on a top school for their sport. I tell them, the most important thing is your degree and quality of education, because that’s with you for the rest of your life. In terms of competing, leave it all on the court.”

Celeste is a junior in her second year of journalism. She is the co-writer of the weekly column Bears Doing Big Things, featuring alumni. She also is a copy-editor and manages the publication's Spanish translations and social media. She enjoys covering issues affecting the M-A community through features and writing Bear Bites about local restaurants. Her story on La Biscotteria was recognized as a top-10 NSPA Blog Post of 2023.

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