To celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in March, we’re asking several tennis players in the Mid-Atlantic – of all ages and abilities – about the importance of role models on and off the court and their own role models.
Starting off this mini-series is Megan Moulton-Levy. Megan is currently director of mentoring at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md. She joined JTCC after playing at the College of William & Mary, where she was the four-time conference player of the year, and spending time on the professional tour. She reached a career-high doubles ranking of No. 50 in the world in 2013.
Why is it important for kids to have strong role models?
It is important for kids to have role models as it gives them some context and reference point for setting goals and finding future success. For me, my role models were people around me who I saw and talked to on a regular basis. From my oldest sister who was a multi-sport athlete, to my father who was an Olympian, to an older girl who trained at the same club as me. When I saw something I liked I wanted to emulate it. I wanted the same one-handed backhand as the older girl who trained at my club. So much so that my one-handed backhand was my eleventh birthday present to myself. I had a strong desire to compete with the same amount of passion as my oldest sister who played on her varsity high school tennis team. My father set the standards extremely high and I was certain I wanted to be an Olympian just like him. At JTCC, the kids are fortunate enough to see Frances Tiafoe and Denis Kudla train. I am sure being in such close proximity to those top-level players has a profound impact on the junior players beliefs about what they can achieve. There is a sense that they too can do it!
As a coach, what do you think about the idea that young players may consider you a role model?
Playing on tour sometimes felt unfulfilling, however, that time in my life gave me the unique opportunity to share my experience with the young girls and boys I work with on a daily basis. It is rewarding to be part of their journey and help them realize the importance of both big and small successes. It is a tremendous honor to be considered a role model, which is a job I do not take lightly.
What lessons from tennis will you take with you for the rest of your life?
I could write a book about all of the life lessons tennis has taught me! You have to be a little mad to pursue tennis at its highest level but I think that same madness is in anyone who wants to be great at anything. It is the little voice of discipline that makes you get up at 6 a.m. even when it is the last thing you want to do. The sacrifices, such as me never being able to attend any of my graduations because of tennis, is what I knew I needed to do in order to accomplish my goals. It took commitment, patience and trust in myself as there are never any guarantees when you commit to the journey. The belief from my support team took me to heights I never thought possible. Traveling the world playing tournaments taught me to be a global citizen who is interested in other cultures, foods and music. This perspective has allowed me to not only tolerate but appreciate differences among cultures from across the world.
What would you tell a girl who dreams of being a professional tennis player?
As Eric Butorac suggests in his Ted Talk, “Don’t Dream Big,” I would tell the girls to build an armor of confidence by dreaming small. Setting big, lofty goals can often feel daunting and overwhelming. Setting smaller, achievable goals and making them slightly more challenging along the way will give you the resilience you need to endure the long journey of becoming a professional tennis player. I would tell them to be grateful for the small victories because if you add them up over time they will amount to HUGE victories. I would tell them to be kind to themselves because although you cannot win every time, you can always find something positive from it. I would tell them to be patient. And finally, I would tell them to be intensely inquisitive and curious about their own progress and development. Putting the process first could be the mindset that saves their tennis career and the foundation of finding success beyond the tennis court.
Check back all month long to read more stories on how having strong role models have helped and are helping girls and women in their tennis careers and their lives.