The American Tennis Association (ATA) will honor Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, by making him the first inductee in their Hall of Fame. Richard’s coaching efforts will be immortalized in the ATA Tennis and Education Complex in South Florida, a new facility being built for the organization.
Richard will be celebrated during the 100th ATA National Championship and Centennial Celebration in Baltimore, MD.
His determination to teach his daughters tennis was tremendous. He researched tennis without any prior knowledge or experience of playing.
“He went from scratch, not knowing anything about the game other than seeing the pot he wanted to bring monetarily … and he learned the game and he taught it to his daughters,” said Dr. Franklyn Scott, ATA President of Education.
Throughout his life, Richard faced several challenges. He endured an impoverished early life working as a sharecropper and enduring blatant racism in Louisiana. He planned a future for Venus and Serena before they were born and wrote a 78-page plan for their careers, according to Forbes.
Richard bought used tennis balls and began putting rackets on layaway; he had a collection of 40 rackets by the time they were born, Richard mentioned in an interview with the Toronto Star.
Richard taught Venus and Serena how to be great tennis players and women on a tennis court in Compton. There were times where he fought against drug dealers who occupied the courts when they went out to practice.
“It’s a miracle that he’s still here with us for what he went through, but I think in being … in Shreveport Louisiana, the way he came up, he prepared his daughters for almost any possible challenge,” Scott said. “He taught them cerebrally and that’s what’s so amazing.”
Another profound tactic that Richard executed was not allowing the Williams sisters to compete in junior tournaments. Venus and Serena became pro athletes at the age of 14. People did not believe him when he said that his young daughters would be the greatest players, but Richard’s prophecy has long hence been fulfilled.
Serena won 23 singles titles and four Olympic gold medals in her career. Venus earned seven grand slams with four gold and one silver Olympic medal; she is currently the 10th seed for women’s singles at Wimbledon.
Upon hearing the news of his induction, Richard refused the honor; he mentioned how he did not want to be perceived as better than anyone else, according to Scott.
“He realistically told us no, he did not want to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Scott said.
Representatives from the ATA told him how children play tennis because of the Williams sisters and how they also look up to his coaching efforts.
“As soon as we said that to him, he changed into ‘wow, I never really looked at it that way or thought about it that way. I’m gonna do it and I’m honored to be a part of it,’” Scott said.
The Centennial Celebration will last from July 29 to August 5 and will include many festivities. August 2 will be deemed “Richard Williams Day” and the ATA will be selling commemorative shirts that feature Richard’s 10 Rules of Success.
The tournament is open to tennis players from age eight and up. Scott noted how 10 players over the age of 85 competed in the tournament last year.
The ATA’s new facility that will be an asset to young players with financial needs who compete nationally, according to Scott; the story of the Williams family is a beacon of hope to young tennis players.
“The Williams story has impacted so many African American children,” Scott said. “A lot of the African American young females, they talk about ‘I want to hit like Serena’ and ‘I want to volley like Venus.’”