Howard: What they did other than being great tennis players
We know who the great tennis players are, or do we? You know those top tennis professionals held in the highest esteem for the accomplishments they achieved on the court, the titles they’ve held, Grand Slams won, gold-silver and bronze Olympic medals sitting in their trophy cases, weeks and months at #1, inductions into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and such...and with that fame a platform of sorts where you have the ear of your fans and general public.
If these special tennis athletes did nothing else, they’d be remembered - but if they took their fame, money and momentary platform during the highlight of their career and found or created a way to help the human race in some special way their legacy reaches a new level many great athletes never see. People like…
A man who overcame many obstacles in becoming the first black man to win big in a white man’s world and game. He and Althea Gibson had to bite their tongues when inwardly they wanted to fight back as they were wronged and mostly due to the color of their skin.
His stand against bigotry and his intolerance of anything less than equal opportunity came through in what he wrote, what he said and his actions.
He help founded the National Junior Tennis League (NJTL) which still goes strong today, the Ashe-Bollettieri Cities Program and the Safe Passage Foundation. Both are based in tennis, but showing kids how to live fruitful and productive lives. A true humanitarian who loved all kids and proved it with his actions that still live on.
BILLIE JEAN KING
Named by Life Magazine as one of the 100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century, presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for her work advocating for the rights of women and the LGBT community, is just the tip of the iceberg of what this woman has done over and beyond her unbelievable tennis achievements.
BJK champions and supports causes such as AIDS & HIV, At-Risk/Disadvantaged Youths, Civil Rights, Conservation, Creative Arts, Education, Health, Hunger, and LGBT Support, Sports and Women rights.
In 2001 Andre opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (a charter school for underprivileged kids) in his hometown, Las Vegas. Since then he’s partnered with an investment fund and financed the construction of more than 80 charter schools across the U.S.
He has raised more than 185 million for the Agassi foundation for Education in being a voice in helping underserved kids futures and his school in Vegas has become legendary in its success.
As a UNICEF ambassador Serena has taken her philanthropic work to building schools in places like Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Jamaica through a partnership with Hewlett Packard.
For 15 years the Roger Federer Foundation has been in the business of empowerment through the education of children in reaching over a million children in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and his homeland of Switzerland.
It’s one thing to have a foundation in your name, it’s another to be completely involved as Roger.
These legendary tennis icons have taken their fame and fortune, parlaying their athletic genius to helping important social issues in making the world a better place, one life at a time - creating great examples for others to follow.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.