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Former WTA pro Ahsha Rolle who grows tennis in the Bronx




So for me, I try to build my player games based on their characteristics and personalities, I tailor their training to their needs, so I don’t train everyone the same way. Out of court, I would hope that the work we are doing now helps mold them as adults. I want them to be confident adults, I want them to be disciplined adults. I want them to learn all the life skills that tennis naturally teaches them and apply them to whatever career choices they have in the future.

Since Cary Leeds opened in 2015, the center has provided more than 6,000 hours of free tennis lessons annually to under-resourced urban youth, while also providing structured programming for juniors and adults of all ages and skill levels. In her new role, Rolle divides her time between court work and administrative work by coordinating Cary Leeds ‘adult programs and by training the clubs’ high-performance women and juniors.

We have commercial programming you can pay for, but we also have a community side. If you’re short on resources and can’t afford things, there are programs for you, Rolle said. We also give some of the children scholarships if they cannot afford it. We have opportunities for everyone at Cary Leeds, and that’s one thing we were really proud of: that money or income doesn’t separate the quality of coaching you can experience.

My philosophy is that a player is a player, whether you are a 50-year-old woman or a high-achieving junior. I give them all the same concepts and information. They all need to have knowledge of continental grip, they all need to know how to cut, they all need to work on transition skills. I say to my ladies, these are the exercises we did with our high performance juniors today, and these are the exercises that you will do too. Maybe they won’t do it for that long, or with the same intensity, but they’re going to do the same exercises. That’s one thing they really enjoy: that I don’t change my style and I don’t treat them differently.

Rolle first started playing tennis on public courts in Miami at the age of 9 and says the growth of the sport among minority groups in a similarly dense metropolitan area like New York City is important to her. Rolle has been uniquely positioned to have a female coach on the WTA tour and also hopes to pass on the wisdom she has gained during her professional career to the next generation, especially as a black woman who was coached by another in its own development.

I came to Cary Leeds especially because I wanted to have more impact on the culture I find myself in. I am African American so I want to be able to help disadvantaged children of color while providing them with very high quality coaching. Surface. I want to make an impact in the community, she said.

From Serena and Venus to Coco Gauff and Frances Tiafoe, you now have this whole generation of children of color to look up to. They will simply create a new generation of excellence. Being able to have representation in a sport that is predominantly white is huge, but it’s also great to have someone like me in a position like this.

Let’s say someone is graduating from college and they want to play tennis, they can aspire to roles like this. They can see another African American in a position they want to be in one day. Representation is key in all of these different positions, and the more we can access things and have different roles, the better it will be for people of color in general.

As an organization as a whole has been working to be more diverse. We have four board members of color, so that’s a step in the right direction. We were definitely pushing to have more people of color in higher positions in different organizations like this one. I am happy to be a woman of color in a strong position. I don’t know that many tennis directors are women, and black too. I hope I can influence others to strive for excellence, and anything I can do to promote positivity and growth in that area is what I’m all for.

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