First Dinkins HBCU Coaching Grants to be awarded
As part of HBCU Live at the 2021 US Open, a new event celebrating Historically Black Colleges and Universities at America’s Grand Slam, the USTA announced the start of the David N. Dinkins HBCU Coaching Grant.
The program encourages and enables HBCU players to become certified tennis coaches, providing a valuable personal and professional development opportunity and an important step to a potential career path in tennis.
Linked with free coaching workshops for college tennis players—run by USTA-U in partnership with the ITA—grants of up to $2,500 are available for HBCUs that have at least five players and/or uncertified coaches complete the training.
The first of these grants will soon be awarded, with Jackson State, Alcorn State, Howard University and Johnson C. Smith University earmarked as early recipients.
Coach Gabrielle Moore had the entirety of both her Jackson State men’s and women’s teams—16 athletes in total—attend a two-day workshop on the school’s Mississippi campus (pictured above).
To date, the sessions have welcomed 147 participants across eight host schools, with 12 total schools involved. A total of eight HBCUs have been represented as attendees.
“The workshop went really well,” said Moore. “Our student-athletes got to see a side that they really don't understand or see as far as coaching and how to put the pieces together.
“For them to get to be in our position as coaches, and then to have to come together and work as a team—it was a great experience for them.”
Many of Moore’s student-athletes had prior experience in coaching at summer camps, and they now have the opportunity to achieve Level 1 coaching certifications from both the PTR and USPTA to go along with it.
“It was kind of like a team bonding experience for them to work together in groups, work with people maybe they haven't worked with, as far as the men and women,” Moore explained. “They were mixing up as teams, having to plan a practice or plan a drill together. It was interesting to see how their minds work and how they operate in that setting.”
The workshop is both theoretical and practical, combining online courses with on-court work, with students working together in teams and putting their own drills into play. The program ends with a practical test, as students are tasked with instructing a lesson of their own.
As her players were exposed to the intricacies of coaching, Moore found the workshop had many lasting benefits beyond its primary purpose.
In addition to her student-athletes gaining an appreciation for what their coaches do on a daily basis, Moore found that the experience improved the communication and attention to detail from her players on the court.
“I've seen a change in their perspective in that they're more involved in detail as far as what they want to do and how they want to do, compared to before where they kind of just let me lead," she shared.
“I've always been a player's coach and I always welcome feedback, but I've seen more feedback and they've been more in tune with what's going on, particularly in individual sessions.”
A product of XS Tennis, Kamau Murray’s Chicago-based NJTL, Moore was one of the first participants in the academy when it first opened. She worked extensively with coach Malcom Bufford as a junior before playing her college tennis at Southern University, an HBCU in Baton Rouge, La.
Now, as one of a small number of Black female coaches in tennis—particularly at the college level—Moore’s career path stands as a bright example of post-playing possibilities within the tennis industry.
Alcorn State coach Darnesha Moore (no relation) was a former teammate of the Jackson State coach at Southern. She also leads both the men’s and women’s programs at her Mississippi school.
Continuing their connection, Alcorn State’s Moore also organized her team’s participation in a coaching workshop on their Mississippi campus.
“My men’s and women’s teams at Alcorn participated in the workshop and had a remarkable experience,” said Moore, who values the program’s design to help keep HBCU players in the tennis industry beyond graduation.
In a first-person essay she penned for USTA.com during Black History Month, Moore credited the USTA’s mission to grow the game at the HBCU level.
“This grant reinforces and expands the tennis industry’s commitment to supporting HBCU collegiate tennis and increasing diversity among certified coaching professionals,” she wrote.
Moore is hopeful that the knowledge her athletes gained from these workshop will serve as the latest addition to their professional toolkits, whether they pursue careers in tennis or outside the sport.
“My mission now, as a coach, is to develop effective leaders with a growth mindset who seek to lift as they themselves climb,” she said in her essay.