Sport – One of Life’s Greatest Teachers
The playground is often where children learn countless life lessons – respect, teamwork, discipline and communication skills among others. But every now and then, sport inspires us in ways almost nothing else can. That’s what Frances Tiafoe’s (pictured above) performance at the recently concluded US Open did to us! Not only did the American beat Rafa Nadal on the way to a career-best Grand Slam semi-final appearance, but he lost only to eventual winner, Carlos Alcaraz, in a marathon five-setter.
We can start to comprehend the magnitude of Frances Tiafoe’s achievement by understanding how expensive it is to pursue tennis seriously. Between training, travelling and entering tournaments, playing on the youth tennis circuit could cost about $400,000 (INR 3.2 crores!). And once you turn pro, only the world’s top 150 ranked tennis players actually make any money after expenses.
Tiafoe’s parents were born in West African country, Sierra Leone, and immigrated to the US after civil war broke out in their home country. Eventually, they met and settled in a suburb of Washington DC where Frances was born. But with hardly any education and almost no money, life was hard. After struggling for some time, Frances’ mom started working as a nurse and his dad became a day labourer on a construction site nearby.
In an interesting twist of fate, the facility that Frances’ dad helped build was the Junior Tennis Champions Center – one of the best youth tennis training facilities in the US. And with Frances’ dad doing a great job, they hired him as a full-time custodian once construction was complete.
P.S. Watch a 2014 video about Frances Tiafoe’s progress on the junior tennis circuit here below!
But Frances’ family needed more cash, so his father worked two jobs: cleaning the complex by day and taking care of the clay courts at night. To help them manage, they were given a 140-square-foot spare office to sleep in. And with their mom working night shifts, Frances and his brother slept there too.
Frances and his brother slept on one folding table while their dad slept on the other. Frances spent countless hours at the facility, and when he turned 5 years old, he was enrolled free of charge at the tennis clinic. By the age of eight, youth coach, Misha Kouznetsov, saw potential in Frances & agreed to coach him full-time. They travelled to tournaments together & Tiafoe rose through the ranks, eventually winning the prestigious Orange Bowl in Florida. He then made his pro debut at 17 years old. Today, although Frances Tiafoe hasn’t won a Grand Slam yet, he has earned more than $6 million in prize money since turning pro and is currently among the top 20 tennis players in the world.
Just goes to show what you can do when you have the will to do it. The Tiafoe family was dealt a difficult hand, and tennis is one of the most expensive youth sports on the planet. But rather than sit back and complain, they made the best of a difficult situation. Frances Tiafoe’s father turned a low-paying job into an estimated $400,000 worth of free tennis training. And now, his son has a multi-million-dollar tennis career to go along with it. Now that’s incredible!
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