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Wednesday Coaches Corner: Traci Green

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Black Tennis Pro's Traci Green CoachWhat a pleasure it was to conduct this *exclusive* interview with Traci Green. She was very warm and impressive. In so few years of life, Traci is experiencing a wealth of blessings that she is clearly honored by. During our interview she stated something about her life and career that will always come to mind when I think of her:

“I’ve always felt like I’m on a path”
Traci Green

I personally love and respect that awareness of life. I believe that when you recognize that you are on a path, you avail yourself to so many of the opportunities that are along the way. Sure, there may also be pitfalls that you encounter, but I think that most people on a path see them as incidental to the journey.

"We’re excited to have Traci Green join our coaching staff,” said Scalise. “We’re delighted to have such a strong player and successful collegiate women’s tennis coach on board. Her commitment to excellence on and off the court and her sound educational values make me confident that she will be a great fit for our program.” Bob Scalise,
Director of Athletics, Harvard

What do you say and don’t you say about Traci Green. Still in the ripe old years of her twenties, this young woman is amassing a resume to be reckoned with. It is truly a pleasure to see someone honor their talent by maximizing it to its full potential. Whether on or off the court, this woman has been giving it all that she has, and that effort had yielded some incredible opportunities that don’t come along everyday.

It is additionally rewarding to see that she isn’t an individual of a single dimension. In addition to her coaching, Traci also served as an adjunct faculty member in the Temple University College of Education, where she taught courses in the department of kinesiology. She continues to serve as a tennis coordinator and advisory board member of the Black Women in Sport Foundation and is active with the USTA High Performance Coaching Program. She is a 2000 graduate of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in communications. She went on to earn a master’s degree in sports administration from Temple in 2004 and has begun work toward a doctorate in education administration. (Harvard Athletic Communications)

Would you believe that there is more to this woman after all that you have just read? There is, and here is some of it:

Shelia: Traci, tell me about your original passion for tennis, when you first got into it and then later knew that tennis would be a part of your life.

Traci: I started when I was ten in Philadelphia in a summer program. I was really into a lot of different sports but pretty much grabbed hold of tennis. One of my first coaches, a woman by the name of Ann Koger who was at the time big in the American Tennis Association arena and a coach at Haverford College in Philadelphia, told my parents I had talent and they said they were ‘kind of surprised. Traci in tennis? I don’t know.’ They knew that I was pretty fast, so maybe track, something else. They asked me, ‘do you want to get involved with tennis?’

I went to a free program, graduated to another program, and within about eleven months I was pretty much playing at a very, very competitive level within the section. I was top eight in the section, which is about four states. Within one year I made a pretty quick transition and then became more heavily involved in tennis. I started winning national tournaments and I was able to make the national teams.

Soon I had to make a choice between college and tennis. One of my mentors was Arthur Ashe, he was always big on education, my mother was a college professor, so I decided to go to college. I went to the University of Florida and won a national championship there as a team, it was a great experience. I then got into coaching.

In her three seasons as head coach at Temple University, she guided the Owls' women's tennis program to a 34-27 record.. With Green’s guidance, Temple rose to a ranking of No. 85 in the NCAA/Intercollegiate Tennis Association ratings in 2007, marking Temple’s first-ever national ranking. Her team defeated three nationally ranked opponents, and five of her players achieved all-conference status. Green took a record of 34-27 to Cambridge. (USTA Tennis Month)

I went to graduate school at Temple University and began coaching there. The program was on the rise, I was looked at by a lot of different programs, Harvard came knocking and I never looked back.

Shelia: I also read that you’re looking to complete a doctorate program?

Traci: I started at Temple when I was coaching there. And now that I’ve moved to Boston in the last year, I’ve kind of tabled that for the moment and I’m just focusing on the main job. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to finish. I’ve got my hands and time pretty full right now.

Shelia: Oh, most definitely. How is it going? You’ve been there for what now, almost a year?

Traci: It’s not even a year yet. It’s going great so far. We’ve been doing a lot of recruiting, we have the number eight recruiting class in the country. We’ve got one of the top ten players in the country, she’s signed and will be coming to Harvard.

I came in the middle of summer last year in July, so I hit the ground running. We’re bringing back the program. They had a couple of down years, but we’re aiming to win an Ivy League title. If not next year, definitely the year after. Definitely a contender.

Shelia: How is life in Boston?

Traci: Life in Boston? I’m getting used to it, it’s cold. It’s colder than Philadelphia believe it or not. But I’m liking it, I’m getting used to the City, finding my way around. I’m enjoying the young feel and the people. I’m definitely getting used to it, and Harvard as well.

Shelia: Did you ever see yourself in such a dynamic role as a woman, and in particular, a Black woman? Or have you been marching forward and now find yourself in this position as a role model, a mentor?

Traci: Ahhh you know, I’ve always felt like I’m on a path. I really didn’t know where my path was headed, still don’t know exactly where it’s going. I just knew that I was moving in a particular direction.

Last year at this time I was in graduate school at Temple working on a doctorate in higher education and I was coaching a team who just, this year they made NCAA for the first time in five years, that’s my old team so I was happy to see that. And this year, now I’m trying to turn the Harvard program around and I never would’ve imagined that I would be at Harvard last year.

I’ve been able to do a lot of mentoring. I’ve spent a lot of time with the Black Women in Sports Foundation. It’s a non-profit foundation focused on helping Black females in all aspects of sports, not just on the playing field but also off. I’ve always talked to young girls about careers in sports, staying in school and things like that. I’ve always been involved with those kinds of programs, organizing them, running them.

So now, to be living this is really cool. Especially last summer at the U.S. Open when they honored Althea Gibson. Just being around so many amazing pioneers, I didn’t even feel like I should even be there. Everyday I feel like I’m just blessed. I feel like I have to go out there and give 110% at what I do, that’s coaching, try to be a role model, try to put my best foot forward at all times and try to bring people up as I steam roll ahead. I try to bring people with me. And, hopefully, things will keep working out this way.

Black Tennis Pro's Traci Green CoachShelia: You beat me to one of my other questions. I watched the U.S. Open tribute to Althea Gibson and the recognition of each of you women. It brought me to tears. I thought that it was just so wonderful. In the aftermath of being part of such a prestigious group, how do you settle into that? Does it push you further forward? What does that do for you?

Traci: For awhile, once a day I would get an email or a phone call about that, so it was definitely still in my mind. I had no idea that I’d be able to rub elbows with Phylicia Rashad and talk politics with Nikki Giovanni and Roberta Flack. You never think of these things and all of a sudden you’re right there saying ‘is Obama gonna make it? What do you think Nikki, is he going to make it?’

Shelia: Wow.

Traci: Oh my God, it’s just a matter of being blessed. I still can’t really fathom that, Aretha Franklin...it was a wonderful production put on by the USTA, they did a great job.

Then Venus and Serena, they both won their matches that night, that capped it off in honor of Althea. It was great. Hopefully people can take that memory and really honor Althea from that whole extravaganza of an evening. I was just blessed for that experience, it taught me to put myself in that category of the people who were there.

Shelia: What do you think of the WTA Tour right now?

Traci: I think that the WTA tour in general is very exciting.

I think it’s great that we have quite a few up and coming Black players. I believe we’ll see more hopefully in the future. I’m seeing a lot of younger players on the junior level coming up, because I do a lot of recruiting for college. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more coming up through the ranks. There’s about two or three of them that have very nice games, who are very young. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more who can push through that top hundred category into the top fifty category much like Chanda Rubin did, not to mention Venus and Serena. We can hopefully keep pushing through that top fifty mark.

I think that we need more in the top fifty, that’s a number that we can push for. I think those out there now, the Jamea Jackson’s, I think they can keep going as long as they keep practicing hard, but I think that we’re going to see a lot more in the next ten years. I’d say at least, five in the top hundred, that’s my prediction. Five in the top hundred in the next ten years.

Shelia: Women’s tennis seems to be experiencing a bit of a lull, it seems to be at that place right before Venus and Serena originally showed up, not particularly thrilling.

Traci: I think right now, on the WTA side, you have a lot of Russians, a lot of people from certain countries, and for America in general, it’s not looking too good.

Shelia: It’s such methodical tennis though, no real fire. At the conclusion of the French Open this year, I’ve had the same discussion with different people on what was that? What just happened?

Traci: I 100% agree that Venus and Serena are the most exciting players in the game right now. Hopefully they can hang in there a little bit longer and keep it exciting. I feel like in the next ten years you’ll probably see some more folks coming in and hopefully they’re exciting.

You know who I think is exciting as well? Angela Haynes. But I don’t see anybody right now who can take over Venus and Serena’s spot, hopefully in the future we’ll see some coming up. Right now in the junior ranks, Russia is on fire and they’re still pumping them out.

Shelia: Do you have a favorite on the WTA/ATP tour?

Traci: Not really. Actually, I really don’t have a favorite player. However, I do like to watch Wimbledon on television. Grass is one of those surfaces, I mean clay is one thing, hard is one thing, but when you see players change their whole game up and start serving and volleying, covering the net, it’s a true testament to people’s athletic ability and to have variety and kind of change things up. I look for Venus or Serena to do pretty well at that tournament

Shelia: Do you have any college players that you have your eye on that you think may transition onto the Tour?

Traci: There’s this young woman by the name of Megan Moulton-Levy at William and Mary, a remarkable player. She can definitely do a lot of damage on the doubles side, she could play right now on the tour and I think she could do pretty well in singles. She’s kind of small, but very strong. Any day she could beat any of the top players. She has a one-handed backhand, she’s consistent and she can cover the whole court.

And there’s another young lady at Duke by the name of Ellah Nze, she’s a very good player as well. She has played some pro tennis challengers. She could play on the tour. She’s an excellent player to watch.

Both of them were All American.

Shelia: What are your thoughts with regard to Black coaches in professional tennis right now?

Traci: That’s interesting, Rodney Harmon of the USTA was talking to me about needing more Black coaches, especially Black female coaches. I believe that there are fewer than ten.

Wherever I am, I try to follow the example of Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil, Katrina Adams. Any advice people need, I am willing to give it.

Shelia: Is there anything about you that we don’t know, that you would want us to know.

Traci: Right now that I am just very greatful to Bob Scalise for giving me this opportunity to be here at Harvard.

Shelia: One of my favorite areas of the interview, Fun Facts. Okay Traci, tell us a few things about yourself. What do you enjoy doing during your down time?

Traci: I like movies, cafes, reading, surfing the internet. I also enjoy watching “Lost,” that’s my favorite television show.

Shelia: Favorite foods?

Traci: My mother’s macaroni and cheese.

Your favorite book, and what are you reading now?

Traci: I really enjoyed Arthur Ashe’s "Days of Grace." I currently have T.D. Jakes in my iPod.

Shelia: Favorite movie?

“Wag The Dog”

Shelia: Favorite type of music?

Traci: R&B

Shelia: Favorite vacation spot?

Traci: Martha’s Vineyard

Shelia: Favorite grand-slam tournament?

Traci: Wimbledon and the U.S. Open

Shelia: Favorite place to be?

Traci: Philly (home)

Posted by Shelia

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