The impact of Coco Gauff
The sport of tennis in the eyes of the average Black person, is seen as an exclusive sport made for White people and rich people. Now, while Black athletes have started to break through, they have been scarce, but with the results of the recent U.S. Open series, they may be changing that perception.
“The thing I started to notice when I was young playing this sport is that when I was at County clubs playing and practicing with my dad, we were the only Black people there.” Erika Bond, a former D1 tennis player, said as she talked about her experiences in playing tennis. “I felt isolated, and it was hard to build a community within the sport earlier, but my love for tennis kept me focused.”
Bond started playing at eight years old and continued playing throughout college at Historical Black Colleges and Universities standout school Prairie View A&M and is now a coach at Rose Bowl Tennis Center in Los Angeles. Bond doubled down that even now, she still feels isolated when coaching at the Rose Bowl center as she is the only black coach and an only woman there. “I rarely see people like me in my classes, and even when I do, they rarely last long.”
With the recent win of tennis star Coco Gauff in the U.S. Open Series, Bond is seeing a changing of the guard with inclusivity in the tennis world. “ The game is changing, and there is a need for diversity and inclusivity because, like Gauff and the ones before her, have shown that it's not a skill level that's stopping Black tennis players from being at the top.” Bond said as she talked about the impact of Gauff winning the tournament at 16. “Little kids are watching her and getting inspired, knowing they can achieve the same goal or even reach greater heights.”
Bond is doing her part in helping kids learn more and be interactive in racquet sports with her community and lifestyle brand All-Love Racquet Club, as she will host the All-Love + Fortune Pop-Up Series event on September 30th, 2023, in Long Beach at the El Dorado tennis center. This remarkable event, sponsored by Wilson, company and in partnership with local tennis program Fortune Tennis, aims to break down barriers and create a more diverse and accessible environment for those who may otherwise be isolated from the world of racquet sports.
“There has never been a more perfect time for the inception of All-Love Racquet Club. At the US Open this year, four black players reached the quarterfinals for the first time in the Open Era. Coco Gauff, a Black woman from where I'm from and who trained with the coaches I trained with, won the title as the youngest American since Serena Williams in 1999,” Bond said “The players, the fans, the industry, and the culture of the sport are all changing and becoming much more diverse. The timing is now to provide a community for all people, no matter their background, to feel comfortable, represented, and like they can engage with and learn about racquet sports.”
The event is open to the public, and no sign-up is required.