There’s a lot I can learn from tennis star Serena Williams, the least of which is how to improve my weak backhand. For those who don’t follow the game, news or Facebook, Serena won the 2014 U.S. Open. There’s also a lot to admire.
Serena Williams’ career achievements on the court include: winning her third straight U.S. Open title, her sixth overall. She’s currently ranked No. 1 in the world. Not bad for a soon-to-be 33 year old, ancient as it relates to women playing tennis professionally.
Serena is regarded by some professional players and experts to be the greatest female tennis player in history. According to reports, she holds the most Major singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles combined amongst active players, male or female.
Ultimately, there are other impressive statistics I could share but you can easily find them online. Besides, that’s not what impresses me most about her. What makes Serena (and sister Venus for that matter) relevant in my eyes is something different. Something unique among people who are leaders in their chosen profession.
Serena is diverse.
No, she’s not a person of color. Well, actually she is. African American to be specific. But that’s not where I’m going with this.
Instead, Serena is one of those human beings I admire for their interest in a lot of different stuff. My cousin Stanley is exactly like that. He just can’t play tennis as well as Serena, judging from the last time we played and I won. (We’ll ignore the 27 straight previous times he beat me because after all, this is about Serena, right?)
At any rate, the younger Williams sister seems to approach life the same way Stanley does: indulging her interests rather than ignoring them. It’s true Serena’s a world class tennis champion. Emphasis on champion. Simultaneously, while competing at the highest level (and mostly winning) over the years, Serena has engaged in an array of non-tennis endeavors.
Among her eclectic activities, Serena started a foundation to assist vulnerable youth. She also has a clothing line and has designed outfits she’s worn both on the court and off. She studied and became a certified nail technician in preparation of launching her fashion nails collection. She also is involved in bringing to market a signature collection of handbags and jewelry.
There’s more. Serena has authored books and appeared in a number of film and TV roles. On top of that, Serena (and sister Venus) reportedly became part-owners of the Miami Dolphins.
What makes all this so relevant, her active involvement in extracurricular activities meaningful to her while maintaining a successful pro tennis career, is that she has not compromised a well-rounded life at the expense of a singular vocational career.
|No single-minded robot|
Because of this, she is not without her critics. Many folks in tennis circles question her commitment and respect for the game. Really? The game’s winningest active player? It’s true that unlike most high performing (and dare I say single-minded) professionals, Serena has skipped tournaments and sometimes registered a poor performance here and there.
An argument might hold water if she was part of a team. Then again, I question the integrity of persons who miss the birth of their child because of work.
Regarding Serena, let them rant; I will rave. I aspire to live my life like Serena and Stanley. Live in a way that’s balanced and soaked with all parts of my being, not just the one that pays the bills. I’m a writer and social change agent. I’m also a mountain-biker and a trekkie. And a foodie and a Spartan.
Singer Frank Sinatra said it best when he crooned, “…I did it my way.”
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.