In celebration of Black History Month, throughout February USTA Florida recognizes all of those in the Black community whose talents and dedication help to grow the great game of tennis every day – at every level. We applaud them all for making tennis a better and more inclusive sport, and for making the face of our game more accurately reflect the dynamic diversity of our country. As part of our coverage, USTA Florida has provided a platform for community members to be honest and open about their thoughts and experiences.
37-year-old Camille Rowe of Pensacola got her start in tennis later in life. Always interested in the sport but lacking the time to dedicate to it, Rowe participated in USTA Florida’s Love to Learn / Love to Play program in the fall of 2020. She loved her introduction to the game so much, she now actively participates in USTA leagues and keeps the courts occupied.
What interested you in tennis and encouraged you to try it out?
I was always interested in playing tennis ever since I was in high school. I was unable to play because the season was around the same time that I was playing other sports I was focused on at the time.
What was your experience like in USTA Florida’s Love to Learn / Love to Play program?
The program was great and the group I was with was a lot of fun. Coaches Rita and Rob were very helpful and patient in showing us the right techniques and teaching us the rules of tennis.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame while learning to play?
While learning to play the challenges I faced were being more consistent with my techniques and practicing the correct form as I developed my game.
What did you take away from the program?
I learned the game of tennis fully and understood the rules, how to score and how to hold the tennis racquet correctly.
How do you participate in tennis now as a Love to Learn / Love to Play graduate?
Now I participate in different programs such as combos, quads and clinics.
Why do you believe it is important to introduce new players to tennis?
It is important to introduce new players to tennis because it is a great way to stay active, work out and socialize.
When you’re not playing tennis, what do you do?
When I’m not playing tennis, I’m working pretty much! I practice yoga and Pilates whenever I’m able to.
Has your race ever impacted your career on and off the court?
I may have had a few stares sometimes when I come to the courts because there are not that many Black tennis players in my area. I’m usually one of the only few.
What do you believe can be done to foster long-term change when it comes to racial inequality in Florida tennis?
The most important long-term change would be to make minorities feel welcome and supported whenever they participate in tennis. You do not want them to feel uncomfortable playing because of the color of their skin.
More specifically, what do you think USTA Florida could do to strengthen its relationship with minority communities?
I would say an increase in marketing in those communities. Send out information about programs such as Love to Learn / Love to Play and beginner clinics. Let people know those programs are available and that they are affordable. I think many minorities might shy away from playing tennis and getting started in the sport because they feel it is a “rich people” sport. They need to know it is for everyone no matter what their socioeconomic status.
Why is it important to celebrate Black History Month in general, as well as in tennis?
It is important to celebrate Black History Month in general to show appreciation, respect, and be educated about what our Black ancestors and leaders went through. In tennis, it is important to celebrate inclusion and acknowledge the Black tennis players paving the way in a predominantly white sport.
Why is it important to not only support and celebrate other cultures but be inclusive to all?
Everyone should be able to experience the benefits of staying active through the sport of tennis and living a healthy lifestyle without feeling uncomfortable when they come out to play.
If you had to share your message of unity, what would it be?
We all are created equal, no one is better than the other based on the color of our skin. Everyone should be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their race.
USTA Florida believes tennis is for everyone. For more information about USTA Florida’s Amplify initiative, visit USTAFlorida.com/Amplify.