Darian Banks Relishes New Job with USTA National
When Darian Banks first began coaching tennis several years ago at Webster University, he envisioned one day relocating to Florida for his career and told his mom as such. A USTA fellowship recently got Banks down to Orlando. And now, a full-time opportunity as manager of community outreach in the grassroots department of USTA National will keep him there.
“Even before I got down here, my mom reminded me I had told her at one point I wanted to move to Florida,” Banks said. “She was telling me I needed to get things in order so I was able to move down here the right way. It was always my long-term plan to move to Florida. This job lined it up. I guess this job opportunity came at the right time.”
Banks was in his second year serving as head director and tennis professional for the East St. Louis Community Tennis Association when he discovered the USTA fellowship. Scott Stinson — president of East St. Louis CTA who originally sought out Banks to help lead his nonprofit organization — caught wind of the USTA fellowship and encouraged Banks to apply.
Banks got accepted into the fellowship early this year and partook in it from April to mid-August. It consisted of Level 2 certification and coaching condensed into three and a half months. Half the day was spent learning on court. The other half was either classroom-based or meeting with professionals at the USTA National Campus to work on leadership skills.
Banks wasn’t necessarily planning on staying in Orlando once his fellowship concluded. But after reading through the job description for manager of community outreach, he decided to pursue the role.
“I realized, ‘Oh, this is kind of what I’m doing back at home,’” Banks said. “This is just on the national scale. I realized it was something I wanted to do.”
Banks started at USTA National in the Lake Nona Region of Orlando on September 7 and is having a blast so far. Part of his job entails traveling around the country to various USTA sections for workshops. Banks trains PE teachers and tennis coaches how to efficiently teach kids so they enjoy tennis, remain engaged and want to continue playing.
Banks and his team ship Net Generation equipment to schools so they have the proper tennis equipment to teach children how to get started in the sport. Banks also travels to tennis events to show support to USTA partner organizations and help behind the scenes. He frequented Atlanta for the 2022 HBCU national championship in mid-September.
Banks is also looking forward to partnering with professional players on tour who have foundations of their own. He said USTA is coordinating with Sloane Stephens to assist her foundation with an upcoming event.
“Really being able to grow the sport has always been my biggest thing,” Banks said. “Giving opportunities to kids who wouldn’t have access to tennis — being able to actually see it in the front. And doing the workshops, talking to coaches and teachers will be the biggest impact for me. I’ve been through community tennis and actually started in community tennis. Now I’m able to coordinate these events where we’re teaching the teachers.”
Banks didn’t pick up a tennis racquet in his life until his sophomore year at Riverview Gardens High School in north St. Louis. His single mom heard about the Just-Us Tennis Foundation — a nonprofit offering free lessons for underserved populations — and enrolled her son. Banks took off and quickly became one of his high school’s top players before competing at Webster University.
With the East St. Louis CTA, Banks introduced tennis to at least 25 kids in underserved areas each week. He ran programming for children throughout the week and held opportunities for adults to join in on the action during the weekend, too.
Banks popped up portable nets and taught children at various facilities basic tennis skills and stroke mechanics. In addition to free group lessons or even private sessions, participants could also receive racquets, bags, balls and other equipment free of charge. The organization was selected as CTA of the Year by both USTA Missouri Valley and USTA St. Louis in 2020.
“Somewhere along the line I’m sure I’ll meet many of those same kids who will have started community tennis and probably go the same route I did,” Banks said. “That’s the biggest thing I look forward to: the social part of it. Being involved and hands-on with different teachers who are growing the next generation of players and collegiate athletes.”
In addition to his time with East St. Louis CTA, Banks worked full-time as a tennis instructor at Vetta Sports Concord in South County. He played World TeamTennis and in USTA leagues while in St. Louis. Banks credited USTA for assisting East St. Louis CTA with grant funding as well as helping get the word out about the nonprofit’s work.
When Banks reflects on where he’s at in life and where he’s come from, he can’t help but grin.
“I never thought I would go this far. But at the same time, my mind was open to the possibilities,” Banks said. “It’s a very humbling experience. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given from everyone who’s believed in me — whether it was my mentors, other players, coaches, my mom. It’s still surprising. Some days I still wake up and think about it. Overall, it just keeps a smile on my face every time I think about it.”
To read a previously published USTA feature article on Darian Banks, click here.
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