In their own words: Darnesha Moore on Black History Month
As we celebrate Black History Month throughout February, we look towards the next generation of leaders in tennis, who are working to spread this sport far and wide, reaching deep into communities to impact youth on many levels. This month, you'll meet leaders telling their first-person stories on USTA.com, who recognize the influences family, friends, teachers and coaches have had on the direction their lives and careers have taken—and how that direction is positively impacting the newest generations. Next up, meet Darnesha Moore.
Tennis saved me. It's taught me life lessons. It’s connected me with people from around the country and around the world. And it continues to push me to be the best version of myself.
My story is of a little Black girl from the south side of Chicago who was determined not to become a product of her environment. I went through a lot of adversity and challenges growing up which made me the woman and the coach I am today.
Gratitude, growth, perseverance and giving back are my main values as I steer through this journey of life.
[Editor’s note: For more about Darnesha’s story as a young girl, see this video.]
When I was about 4 years old in Chicago, my aunt first took me out on a tennis court and taught me to play. As a junior, I was able to compete in tournaments around the nation, eventually reaching high rankings.
I’ve loved tennis since I first stepped on the court, and I always saw a future career for myself as a coach in this industry.
I received a full scholarship to Southern University and A&M in Baton Rouge—and it was the best decision of my life! Competing at a prestigious HBCU was such a fun and fulfilling experience. I was able to receive multiple awards, including two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships. Upon graduation, I earned my PTR certification and immediately began coaching in Baton Rouge.
Shortly after, I received the opportunity to participate in the USTA Professional Development Coaching Fellowship. I gained a ton of knowledge, professionalism and experience with USTA Player Development, along with amazing networking. While traveling in this program, I met coach Andy Brandi, the co-head coach for men’s tennis at LSU. Since I was living in Baton Rouge at the time, I was able to spend time learning from Coach Andy at LSU. The next year, I started my own junior tennis program, Moore Quality Tennis, with a mission to increase the competitive culture for youth, provide parental resources, and host community events to grow the game of tennis.
Later in 2019, I became head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss., where I’ve been since. In this time, I’ve served on a number of committees and task forces on topics surrounding diversity & inclusion, recruitment, retention, mentorship, the development of more female and ethnically diverse coaches and many more. I’ve also spoken at two ITA coaches' conventions.
The essence of my career comes from mentorship. I’ve always had someone who was a phone call or message away. I highly value connecting with others in this industry and soaking up as much knowledge as possible.
I’m beyond thankful to have crossed paths with the many mentors I’ve had at the USTA, including Paul Lubbers, Kent Kinnear, Jessica Battaglia, Dave Ramos, Lori Riffice, Leah Friedman and Martin Blackman. In the PTR Mentorship program, I was paired with Ann Kroger, who continues to help me so much in navigating the challenges of being a college coach. Each one of these leaders has been instrumental in helping guide my career.
My latest mentor is Roland Thornqvist at University of Florida, with whom I was paired in the ITA/USTA mentorship program by Dave Mullins (another phenomenal mentor). They’ve helped me with shared experiences, growth on and off the court and using my platform. Just a phone call away are my former Southern coach Jeffrey Conyers and former teammates who are now head coaches, including Gabrielle Moore and Lois Arterberry.
When I was growing up, 90% of the time I was the only Black girl at tournaments. I also didn’t see a lot of Black women coaches. The numbers still are alarming for Black women tennis coaches, especially at the collegiate level. Black History Month is a great opportunity to celebrate and promote Black tennis players, coaches and colleges.
The USTA created a grant last fall aimed at encouraging and enabling HBCU players to become certified coaches, providing a valuable personal and professional development opportunity and an important step to a potential career path in tennis.
[Find out more about the USTA David N. Dinkins HBCU Coaching Grant here.]
This grant reinforces and expands the tennis industry’s commitment to supporting HBCU collegiate tennis and increasing diversity among certified coaching professionals. My men’s and women’s teams at Alcorn participated in this workshop and had a remarkable experience. My mission now, as a coach, is to develop effective leaders with a growth mindset who seek to lift as they themselves climb.
Tennis saved my life and I am thankful for the position I am in—and for the people who have helped contribute to my tennis journey.