Editor’s note: David Filer passed away peacefully on March 12 at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, surrounded by loved ones.
Game, set, match: In tennis, each word marks steps along a journey.
For 16-year-old David Filer, tennis itself was the beginning of a remarkable journey.
In recent years, Filer has been a regular sight on Goshen College’s tennis courts. He showed an incredible talent for the sport from a very young age and while being a nationally-recognized prospect, began training with GC’s team.
However, his playing stalled in February last year when he was diagnosed with cancer.
Filer has Glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. Since the diagnosis, he has been pushing through the effects of both the illness and the treatment’s side-effects, trying to keep as much of his physical strength as he can.
As a child, Filer began competing in local tournaments with the goal of winning it all — and at age 7, he won his first trophy. His passion for the sport, as well as his tennis career, took off from there.
As years passed, Filer eventually rose to “blue-chip” status, designating his entrance into the top 10 players in his age division in the U.S. He was only 10 years old at the time, but already he had dreams of playing professional tennis and even winning a grand slam.
To make this a reality, Filer and his family moved from the Midwest to Orlando, where he was able to train alongside other nationally ranked players at the USTA National Campus. From there, he bounced back and forth between playing in Florida and Indiana, along with traveling across the country nearly every weekend to compete in tournaments.
Despite all of this, Filer tried to remain humble, never letting his talent get in the way of his personal life or playing with others, regardless of their ability or tennis background.
Filer often trained under a multitude of coaches, but it was his connection to assistant tennis coach Doug Gossman that landed him at GC practices.
Filer often came during preseason after the team finished challenge matches, which are used to determine lineups. This provided a great opportunity for the teen to get extra practice against the best players on the men’s team.
More importantly, it gave the Leafs a once-in-a-lifetime chance to practice with and learn from national talent.
Senior Kevin Bollmann has had several opportunities to hit with Filer, both in and outside GC practices. Bollmann reflected fondly on the 2021-22 season, when he played No. 1 singles for the team.
“It truly amazed me that such a young kid was able to keep up with our team,” Bollmann said. “We’re all fully grown, in our twenties, and he’s just a teenager. It was really impressive.”
Bollmann noted that Filer’s style of tennis was much different from his own at that age.
“He definitely plays like this new generation of tennis would expect; he’s aggressive and not afraid to step in to take a shot early.”
Bollmann said he was honored to have gotten the chance to practice against someone like Filer.
“You can tell that he genuinely cares about and loves this sport,” Bollmann said. “It was an incredible opportunity.”
In February of 2022, when Filer was diagnosed, his family and surrounding tennis community quickly showed support, creating a GoFundMe to pay for his treatment.
It instantly surpassed $100,000.
To date, it is sitting at just over $135,000. All of the donations have been used towards Filer’s treatment costs.
For a while, the teen appeared to be defying the odds — five MRI’s came back clean, showing no visible signs that the cancer had returned after his initial treatment. He was returning to Florida weekly, both for training and chemotherapy, and the end of 2022 looked bright. Filer was nearing the end of his treatment cycle, and he hoped that afterwards he would be able to have surgery to correct his vision issues, which were affecting both his everyday life and his tennis game.
Then, just two weeks ago, Filer experienced what the doctors initially thought was a stroke.
The cancer migrated to his brain stem, and on Feb. 10, doctors informed the Filer family that the teen likely had between two and four weeks left to live. He is now in Indiana for hospice care and several local events have taken place in order to honor him.
The hearts of the GC community are with the Filer family. We are incredibly grateful to be a part of the remarkable journey of the young tennis star.
If you would like to directly show your support, David Filer’s GoFundMe can be found at https://gofund.me/b8eb9275.