Voices from the Mid-Atlantic: VanDer Woody
During Black History Month, USTA Mid-Atlantic focused on celebrating our present and future Black players while we honored those that came before. So far, we heard from Claris Brock and Empress Johnson. Passionate tennis players and leaders, both women are promoting tennis in the Black Community in their own unique way.
In our closing spotlight, USTA Mid-Atlantic caught up with Metropolitan Tennis and Education Group (MTEG) member, VanDer Woody. VanDer is currently a high school student from Baltimore, Md. He started playing tennis at the age of five and has participated in various programs around Baltimore including: Druid Hill Park, Green Spring Tennis, and Summer Programs at Gilman School.
Here is VanDer’s perspective on tennis in the Mid-Atlantic.
Mid-Atlantic - What drew you to tennis?
The solitude of the sport is what drew me to tennis. I enjoyed being the only one on my side of the court - figuring out my own problems, fighting my own battles, and earning my own victories.
How often do you play?
I play tennis twice a day five days a week, with a fitness session included each day. I also regularly compete in USTA tournaments and UTR prize money tournaments on the weekends.
Is there a role model you specifically look up to for guidance?
My older brother Langston is one of my biggest role models. He pushes me to be the best I can be and reminds me of the values that come from having a family. He helps me understand that no matter how low I feel, I can still accomplish my dreams.
How can we encourage more people to play tennis?
We could hold small tennis events teaching kids about the sport at a young age. Fun engagements like this would leave the kids wanting to come back to play more tennis.
What is your perspective on diversity in tennis? Nationally? In the Mid-Atlantic?
In the Mid-Atlantic, I believe that there is a good amount of diversity. As far as the whole country goes, I frankly believe USTA tournaments lack diversity.
What does it mean to be a leader in the tennis community?
Being a leader in the tennis community means taking responsibility for the tone of a practice or an event. It means showing up with a smile on your face, although it may not be your finest hour. It means bridging the intensity to your practices so others follow, encouraging our growth as a team.
How would you like to see tennis grow in the Mid-Atlantic?
I would like to see more players participate in tournaments so that tournaments can be bigger and more competitive. Also, I would like to see more training facilities around the area so that players do not have to travel long distances just to practice.
And in your opinion, what steps can be taken to achieve that outcome?
I believe that fundraisers and sponsored events can promote the growth of tennis in the Mid-Atlantic. Also, if influential leaders directly supported and encouraged young people, more kids would be inspired to play.
As you think about the future, what is your wish for your generation and the sport?
I wish for my generation of the sport to have equality and friendship, along with experiencing the joy that comes from hard-fought matches.
As USTA Mid-Atlantic concludes our celebration of Black History Month, we are thankful for the passion and commitment to the tennis community of not only our Black players but all of our players across the Mid-Atlantic. We encourage you to keep the conversation going by joining us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.