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In light of the recent King Richard movie (highly recommended) being released, I felt I should pay homage to the man that changed the tennis world as we know it. For those that don’t know, ‘King Richard’ relates to Richard Williams. Of course, he is the father of Serena and Venus Williams, two sensational tennis players. He is often credited with coaching the girls through their early years, albeit via some rather crazy methods. Regardless, it’s impossible to argue with the results yielded from his methods.
Richard Williams was living in Compton while training the girls to play the game. The area was as rough as they come according to his own accounts. But he kept going, training the girls day after day. Amazingly, he even wrote a rather lengthy document detailing how the girls were going to become tennis champions before they were even born. Crazy, or genius? I’m inclined to stay neutral on that one, but we can still appreciate what he did for the game!
The ‘Williams Way’ – his impact on tennis as we know it
Richard Williams started coaching the girls during a time where was supposedly a proven path to success. This required going to an academy, turning pro as soon as possible, and signing the first deal that was put on the table. As the recent movie shows, King Richard wasn’t interested in the traditional path. He had his own ideas, which I’ve detailed right here:
The importance of competition
Even today, kids get told that competition is the only way to stand out from the crowd in tennis. This puts enormous pressure on performance from the word go. But unless they have the funds ready to travel and compete, this puts a massive hurdle in the way of actually competing regularly. With that said, still, doing well in competition is usually the default path to gaining funding, sponsorships, and pushing forward in tennis. Richard Williams didn’t believe this, and he kept the girls from competing in juniors as much as he could.
Focus on diversity
When kids show promise in tennis, oftentimes, the sport can consume them from an early age. Life becomes about practice, fitness, competition, and this is a daily thing. Kids can get burnt out fairly easily – I’ve seen it myself. However, Richard Williams tried to emphasize how important education and extracurricular activities were for the girls. He ensured that they never turned their backs on education, and this probably helped to avoid such a stack of pressure for both of them.
The value of belief
Let’s be honest – writing a document about how your daughters will become tennis superstars prior to their birth is pretty loopy. But Richard Williams believed they would be great, and he retained this belief throughout their professional lives. Despite hearing the word ‘no’ so many times, he kept pushing until a door was opened. This showed that even players who struggle in terms of finances, talent, or whatever else can still make it – all they need is belief and to be relentless in their pursuits.