Chief Diversity Officer Talks Plan to Change Face of Tennis

Executive hopes to take sport to new communities

Girls and Boys - Leaping

The future of tennis: Clayton has this photo of the 2008 United States Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup teams on the wall in his office. The U.S. won its first-ever Junior Fed Cup title and the Junior Davis Cup title for the first time since 1999. (Source: Susan Mullane)

What are some of the efforts the USTA is doing to diversify the tennis, especially among the higher-ranked players?

We have specific funding programs out of my department called multicultural player grants. We understand that the scale is not balanced right now, so what we’re doing is providing funding to try and offset that disparity. We want to see continuous improvement; as long as the player continues to improve, there is funding.

There’s also the high-performance player development department. When a player reaches a certain level that we call our elite player status then that department takes over and it begins to fund them at a higher lever and that funding is the same in which we would fund our majority players as well.

How do you get tennis into communities where it isn’t the norm?

We have community partnerships and strategic partnerships in place so that we can connect with groups in those communities. There are leadership groups such as the 100 Black Men of America in which we have a national partnership. It isn’t just for kids but also for vendors, suppliers, and potential sponsors. We also have these kinds of relationships with the Hispanic community, Asian community, and Native American community. Across all groups of color we have tried to identify one or two or three leadership organizations that we can go to to establish partnerships.

If we can get to a community early enough, and the leaders of those communities are also pushing tennis as a cool sport to do then we can also begin to address that and get the kids at a younger age as well.

Tennis training can be expensive. How do you make it more accessible to people who can’t afford it?

We provide coaching, clinics, camps, and we have regional training centers across the country. How do we make sure that all kids have access to a training center and not just those in the suburban area where the training center is located? It is making sure that we provide those particular activities and support that cost money that in some cases make it prohibitive to participate in.

If a parent thinks she has a young Venus Williams or James Blake at home, how can they find out what resources are available?

First thing is to contact the local USTA office. From that point they would make the connection and develop the relationship and get the child out to some of the youth programs and camps; and also give direction on where s/he can play and on what funding and grants are available. Check out the Website too.

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