Elly's Inspiration and Motivation
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month (AAPI). To celebrate, USTA Mid-Atlantic is honoring members of the AAPI communities who contribute to our region’s vibrant tennis family both on and off the court.
“There are so many benefits to playing tennis - everything from building confidence, learning technical skills and knowing when and how to apply them, forming relationships to life-long physical fitness,” says Elly Millar of Norfolk, Va.
Elly is a Captain for a Junior Team Tennis (JTT) team and got into the sport to support her daughter and other young tennis athletes. While Elly loves to encourage and support her players, what’s most remarkable is how youth players have given her the confidence and inspiration to play tennis, volunteer more, and even coach middle school tennis too! USTA Mid-Atlantic caught up with Elly to learn how tennis has made an impact.
Tell us about yourself?
I was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. when I was 12. My dad was in the U.S. Army, so I had the opportunity to live abroad. My favorite place to live was Germany. It was the best three years of my life.I currently live in Norfolk, Virginia near the largest Naval base in the world. I work in the cybersecurity field for the Department of Defense.
When did you start playing tennis and/or getting involved in the sport?
I “played” tennis as a young adult recreationally occasionally, but not as a regular sport or a hobby. When my daughter was seven, we got her into tennis with a local coach and we knew she was a natural from the start. We got her involved with the Junior Team Tennis (JTT) program at Old Dominion University soon after and I started volunteering as a captain and got more involved with it over the years.
The knowledge and experience I gained watching Alex, my daughter, learn and play gave me the confidence to volunteer as the assistant coach for her middle school tennis team last year.
Why did you become involved with Junior Team Tennis?
At first, I wanted to be there for my daughter as she navigated through the program. Then I began to meet amazing kids who are so brave to put themselves out there with so many eyes watching. It’s incredible how many of them play and handle themselves so well under pressure. And I really love being the adult on the floor even if it’s just to flash an encouraging look or to give them a thumbs up.
This year is USTA Mid-Atlantic's 100th anniversary, in what ways do you think tennis has evolved in the region's AAPI community over the last 100 years?
I think the biggest change is the cultural representation, and I think it truly began with the Williams sisters. Their example helped players like Jessica Pegula and Vania King to create the AAPI Tennis Association with other passionate founders to advocate for more diversity. They are making individual histories, but also making history for the AAPI community and inspiring little girls like my daughter everywhere.
Why is it important to increase access to tennis in the AAPI community?
Because tennis builds communities by bringing people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities together. It also helps with optimism and self-esteem especially in younger generations that stays with them as they navigate life as minorities.
In what ways has tennis become an important part of your life?
My daughter’s accomplishments in her tennis journey have been very inspiring to me. I took up tennis again because I wanted to be able to play with her and be able to keep up with her as she advanced. Taking lessons and playing again gave me so much appreciation for the sport and what these young players do on the court. I love that it teaches my daughter perseverance and grit as well as the importance of being a good sport on and off the court. These are very important skills no matter what stage you are in life. I also enjoy playing the sport for fun. It has become a family sport and we enjoy meeting other people who share the love for the sport.
What would you tell someone interested in getting involved in tennis?
Go for it! It doesn’t matter how old you are or how athletic you are. There is a level appropriate for everyone, and it is super addictive. Take the first step and you won’t regret it.
This year USTA Mid-Atlantic, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is celebrating 100 years of promoting tennis and its physical, social, and emotional health benefits. Get involved and show your support for the next 100 years of tennis. Learn about our impact in the region and how USTA Mid-Atlantic creates community, character, and well-being.