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A Profile Of Blacks In Tennis: Le George Mauldin By Jasmyne A. Cannick

Friday, August 22, 2008


Introduction

The profile that you are about to read is not about one of the professional tour players or coaches, but about a fellow Los Angeles native that the writer wanted to bring to the attention of those who have an interest in Blacks in tennis. I am very glad to be able to share this profile with you. I like the way that it is developed and I believe that you will too.

The writer of this article is Jasmyne Cannick. At 30 Jasmyne is currently training under Le George Mauldin for her first tennis tournament. She is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the worlds of pop culture, race, class, sexuality, and politics as it relates to the African-American community. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and Ebony Magazine. A regular contributor to NPR's 'News and Notes' and UrbanThoughtCollective.com, she was chosen as one of Essence Magazine's 25 Women Shaping the World.


Profile


While all of the other young men in his neighborhood were playing football and basketball, Le George Mauldin’s parents had him at the tennis courts, honing the skills that would eventually make him a master tennis instructor.

A native of Los Angeles, Le George, 27, attended 42nd Street Elementary School, Audubon Middle School, and Dorsey High School, before eventually enrolling at Cal State University Dominguez Hills under a Criminal Justice major.

Reflecting back on his childhood, Le George admits that he wasn’t big enough for football or tall enough for basketball, so for him, tennis just made sense. He's been playing since the age of four.

“The game of tennis is similar to the game of life,” Le George explains. “It’s a one on one sport where there’s no one coaching you on the court and you have to figure it out on your own. When your match is over is when you can get advice on what you did right and what you did wrong, but for the most part, it requires incredible self-discipline and self-control.”

Le George is quick to credit his parents with teaching him the true meaning of life and hard work.

“My parents taught me that if you want something, it’s up to you to get out there and bust your butt to make it happen,” says Le George. “No one is going to hand anything to you. My parents are my role models.”

In addition to his parents, Le George says that he was fortunate enough to have strong Black male role models in the community to help him along the way including his tennis coaches Terry Chambers and Richard Williams (not the father of Venus and Serena Williams). He also credits the late great tennis champion Arthur Ashe, former World No. 1 ranked tennis pro Petros “Pete” Sampras, tennis pro Michael Chang, and the father of Venus and Serena Williams, Richard Williams.

A high performance master tennis instructor who trains with tennis super stars Venus and Serena Williams when they are in Los Angeles, Le George is currently an instructor at the Venus and Serena Tennis/Tutorial Academy at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center of L.A. where he is focused on helping children, Black children in particular, hone their tennis skills.


“The Williams’ are great people,” says Le George. “While I was training in Florida, they graciously hosted me and my coach. Plus, they also give me great advice about tennis and on life in general.”

“Tennis probably saved my life,” explains Le George. “Because I was on the court instead of in the streets, I escaped the life that so many young Black brothers fall victim to—gangs, jail, and teenage fatherhood.”

“I made it a personal goal for myself to teach as many children the game of tennis as possible in hopes of seeing them get a tennis scholarship to attend college and saving their parents money,” admits Le George. “I figure if they can get into college on a tennis scholarship, after about two years they might consider going pro!”

But Le George doesn’t just teach children, he also teaches adults how to play tennis.

“Seeing an adult—or a child hit their first tennis ball and it makes it over the net and stays in the court is a very rewarding feeling,” reflects Le George. “As a tennis instructor, nothing can compare to being there to witness your student—whether they’re children or adults—win their first match or tournament. That’s what I enjoy most about teaching tennis.”

On the issue of tennis being viewed as a “white sport” or part of the Black bourgeoisie Le George says, “Come out to the Arthur Ashe Tennis Courts on a Saturday morning. We have adults, young adults, and children—mostly Black—right here from South Los Angeles playing tennis. In addition, we have Blacks come from all over Southern California to play tennis at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center because this is where most Blacks who play tennis play in L.A. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and focus on helping anyone interested in learning how to play. There’s nothing white or bourgeoisie about the game of tennis. During South Africa’s apartheid, Arthur Ashe was denied a visa by the South African government keeping him out of the South African Open. He used the opportunity to call attention to South Africa’s racism against Blacks. The Williams’ sisters came straight out of Compton. In fact, most people aren’t aware that there is still a lot of racism in tennis against Blacks, just ask Venus and Serena. Black people need to realize that when we use terms like ‘acting white’ and ‘bourgeoisie’ we discourage each other from reaching our full potential. It’s no different than when kids tease each with ‘acting white’ for being good students and brining home A’s on their report cards. For me it comes down to knowing where your child is after school or for them to ‘act Black’ and join a gang and run the streets eventually ending up in jail or worse, dead. Tennis is an opportunity, much like we view basketball and football for our youth, both females and males, to excel in life. Why should white children be the only ones taking advantage of that?”

Currently Le George is working with several shinning stars at the Venus and Serena Tennis/Tutorial Academy housed at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center in Los Angeles. Among them are 11-year-old Melan Butler, who currently ranks in the top 50 girls in her age group with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Southern California Section. Other up and coming tennis stars include 12-year-olds Amirra Heath and Darian Epherson. He also says to look for good things from 8-year-old Regina Pitts who is currently ranked No. 87 in girls playing tennis under the age of 10 with the USTA in Southern California.

“Regina, recently won her first tournament. Her sister Maya Pitts is fast on Regina’s heels at the age of five. Maya can already hit the ball from the baseline! I credit the success of Richard Williams and his daughters Venus and Serena with inspiring a whole new generation of Black tennis players the way that Arthur Ashe inspired me.”

Le George also reminds adults that tennis is one those sports that give the body a total workout and so for adults looking to get in better shape, tennis is an excellent source of physical fitness.

Unfortunately, Le George says that because he coaches tennis, there’s less time for him to actually play. Le George, who during his childhood played in all of the local Southern California tournaments, was ranked as high as No. 2 with the USTA for boys ages 10 to 12, and was in the top twenty for young men 16 to 18 by the age of 15.

Le George offers the following tennis tips to players and those thinking about taking up tennis.

“Stay focused and enjoy yourself. Always play the game of tennis with a smile on your face, it helps! There’s nothing that you can’t do with practice.”
When Le George, who lives in Paramount, isn’t teaching tennis he dabbles in he world of real estate.

The Venus and Serena Tennis/Tutorial Academy, under the direction of Terry Chambers, is housed at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center of L.A. at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex located at 5001 Rodeo Boulevard in Los Angeles. Adult, children and youth (under 18) private lessons are $22 for 30 minutes or $44 for one hour. Group lessons are also available. The phone number is (323) 299-4631 and there are several master tennis instructors available for morning, afternoon, and evening lessons.

Le George Mauldin can be reached at www.tenniswithlegeorge.com, or by emailing info@tenniswithlegeorge.com, or catch him in action at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center of L.A. daily.


www.jasmynecannick.com www.myspace.com/jasmynecannick,

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