Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Richard Williams: He did it Frank Sinatra Style

Moments after Serena Williams won her third career US Open title the first person to greet her courtside was her father Richard Williams. He was smiling from ear to ear as he watched one of his two champions secure another Grand Slam for the family.

Richard Williams had raised and coached two African American champions who dominate a sport historically reserved for whites. Lets put this into perspective. Could you imagine if Tiger Woods had a younger brother just as good as in terms of talent challenging him each Sunday to win Grand Slams?

Enough said.

Richard Williams' has been hailed as a genius for what's done in raising two tennis champions in one household. I'd agree he's a genius but I'm more impressed with how he did it. Just like Frank Sinatra's hit "I Did it My Way," Williams surely did it his way.

Williams taught himself the game and passed on his knowledge to his daughters. He didn't have his children in USTA tournaments traveling the country like most: Williams kept his daughters grounded and away from junior touraments. It was a bold move but one that's obviously paid off.

To me Williams is a man from the hood that's often misunderstood. I've met him on several occasions at various tournaments. To me he's someone who is grounded yet speaks his mind. He deals with all people well yet aware of his surroundings and the pervasiveness of racism.

Williams has suggested there's racism on the WTA tour and his daughters have been the recipients of it. Looking at the lack of African American women and men playing tennis his assertion certainly has credence.

In my opinion the USTA hasn't done enough to diversify the game. I can't think of anything specifically they've done to make the game more accessible and affordable to African Americans.

If the few African American tennis stars were marketed correctly there could be more African Americans involved. Other sports like basketball and football market their athletes which creates future opportunities. African Americans gravitate towards the latter sports because they see someone who looks like them in abundance.

I think the USTA would benefit from the wisdom of Richard Williams. Why hasn't anyone approached him for his input?

The opportunity is there to grow the sport. Opening night of the US Open started with James Black playing another up and coming African American Donald Young on the court that's named after Arthur Ashe. In the quarterfinals Venus squared off against her sister in an epic two set match. The tournament ended with Serena Williams winning her third title.

The ingredients to grow the sport for African Amerians are certainly there.

But perhaps Williams doesn't want or need to be involved with the USTA. Perhaps the USTA is reluctant to deal with a man who has referred to the sport as being racist. To me by the USTA not consulting with Williams is actually a compliment. Not acknowledging his wisdom or seeking to utilize his expertise in actuality is a testament of his greatness. The facts are his two children from the hood are at the top of the tennis world. Hollywood couldn't have written a better script.

Think of Richard Williams as you wish but you have to give the man his due. He's done something no other coach has done in sports and that's raise two African American champions who dominate a white sport.

But more importantly he did it Frank Sinatra style-he did it his way on his own terms.

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