When I first picked up a tennis racquet around the age of thirteen, I never thought that it would lead me to where I am today.
From beginning my collegiate journey at Collin College to graduating from Ouachita Baptist University, I had the opportunity to meet so many new people, see new places, and experience different ways to give back through a sport that has given me so much. Tennis is a sport that teaches lessons far beyond the lines of the court, and I am grateful for each and every one of them.
I am just over six months into my year of service at the Inspiring Children Foundation in Las Vegas, Nevada–and what an exciting time it’s been!
What intrigued me about applying to this location through Tennis for America was the focus on improving mental health and the effort to make it “mainstream”. The foundation is adamant about empowering the youth through its leadership program, mentorship program, athletics, education, and mental health and wellbeing. The results of the foundation and the tennis academy show how successful the environment they’ve created is at developing not just incredible athletes, but also driven, self-connected, and self-confident individuals.
I am typically in the foundation office from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, with the exceptions being when we have leadership speakers, tournaments, a variety of events, or when I’m on-court at the partnering tennis academy, No Quit. I get to work on a wide range of things from working as part of the Fund Development team, to social media, to helping set-up and execute different large events that we host, or helping the youth with their self-driven projects.
One of the biggest projects that has happened so far in my time here has been the #NotAloneChallenge. The purpose of the social media campaign is to raise funds and awareness for those that are underprivileged to receive more access to mental health tools and resources, while also providing online behavioral tools. To learn more about the challenge, visit www.inspiringchildren.org/notalone!
I enjoy the time that I spend in the office because it is so vastly different from that of the typical workplace. When we have our weekly team meetings which include the staff and the interns in the program, we start by taking twenty breaths to re-center and clear our minds before we begin.
Every Monday and Wednesday, for interns that are not tennis players and staff, we have yoga sessions to incorporate physical activity which is an important pillar practiced by the foundation. We also have healthy squad lunches often prepared by myself and other interns which ties into the principle ‘Eat Right = Feel Right’ which is encouraged and practiced by the foundation.
Throughout the day, we take “brain breaks” which can be activities like taking a walk around the pond in the park we’re located in, playing tag, or taking breaths before discussing what our focus for the day/week is. It’s also refreshing to be in an environment where people are very open and genuine about where they’re at. It’s an environment where everyone is encouraged and pushed to be their best selves, and being open and honest is a huge component of the growth that everyone displays.
I enjoy getting to mentor and teach the youth in the program things through my life experiences, but I also appreciate the things that they’re able to teach me as well–they’ve been a huge piece of the growth that I’ve noticed in myself in this short period of time.
Tennis for America and No Quit have also allowed me to experience being a coach for the first time. I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with and learn from incredible coaches through the High Performance morning academy, after-school academy, and with younger kids in the orange and green ball programs.
After getting settled into my coaching role, I’ve enjoyed spending my time teaching the kids in our orange and green ball program and coaching the Junior Team Tennis teams. It took time to get used to running a practice with a large number of high-energy kids, but over time I feel like I’ve grown in my confidence and skills in coaching. I find it extremely heartwarming to be able to see kids genuinely enjoy this incredible sport and the hard work that comes along with it.
While the first six months feel like they’ve flown by, I can’t wait to see what the rest of my year of service will bring. I look forward to developing more professional skills, growing in my own confidence, and executing future events that we’re conducting to ultimately help the foundation grow.