Looking Back and Looking Ahead: Natasha Subhash’s Thoughts on Tennis

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.

The final feature of the month is of Natasha Subhash, one of the top junior players in the Mid-Atlantic and the entire country. We caught up with Natasha before she headed to California to play at the Easter Bowl tournament and got her thoughts on her own tennis journey, who on the pro tour she might see as a role model and what advice she has for younger players.

Player, Mother and Coach: Jeri Ingram Reflects on the Impact of Role Models

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March and the impact that women in tennis have made and continue to make by acting as strong female role models, we’re catching up with players of all ages and abilities throughout the month to talk about their experience.

Jeri Ingram 2This week’s Q&A is with Jeri Ingram, who is the founder of the Metropolitan Tennis and Education Group and currently serves as Vice President on the USTA Mid-Atlantic Board of Directors. Jeri started playing tennis in a public park with her father when she was 9 years old and went on to become an All-ACC player at the University of Maryland and spent eight years on the WTA Tour.

Did you look up to any tennis players when you were learning?

I initially looked up to my father and the people he played tennis with in the parks as well as the players he played against in local tournaments. As time went by I always looked up to my tennis coaches and my fitness coaches that worked with me every day.  Every single coach had something to offer and I was a “sponge” for learning all that I could. Other individuals that I looked up to were Arthur Ashe, Lori McNeil, Zina Garrison, Katrina Adams, and Rodney Harmon.

Do you think having a role model helped you with your game?

Yes, I know these role models helped my game. They were, and still are, the voices that I would hear in my daily life as I made decisions on and off the tennis court. My father always made sure he kept me around healthy people and I was always confident that these people were moving me forward so I wanted to ensure that I was using their advice.

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Jeri with the great Arthur Ashe after winning a trophy.

Thinking back to when you started in tennis, did you believe you could become a professional player and have a career in tennis?

When I began tennis I did not think about becoming a professional. I mostly thought of becoming a better tennis player every day and having a better result in the next tournament each time. Once I was a sophomore in high school I began to believe I could become a professional tennis player. Once I became a senior in high school I began to know that was what I should work for in my life.

I definitely did not know I would have a full career in tennis until I retired from the WTA Tour and finished college. I knew then that I wanted to combine my life experience with my business expertise to grow the game of tennis, effect change in various communities, and influence high performance outcomes.

As a mom with two daughters who both play tennis, do you think having strong female role models are important  to their tennis game? Why?

Yes, I think having strong role models are important because it perpetuates the “I can do this too!” attitude and at times, it can facilitate easier communication between player and coach when it is female to female. Thankfully, tennis is a sport that has strong role models at every turn.

As a former pro player, current coach, and mom how does it feel that some kids may look up to you as their role model?

As I reflect on all of those roles, I feel as though it is an awesome responsibility to be an excellent role model to my own children, other young tennis players, all children and adults as well. Having traveled the athletic path from learning on my neighborhood courts to the pros, it is important to share how that journey has shaped me and set an example to inspire others to continue to excel in their own game and life.

What would you tell a girl who dreams of being a professional tennis player?

I would tell her a number of things:

I tell a girl who dreams of being a professional tennis player to first dream of being the best you that you can be. Whether it is on the tennis court, off the tennis court, in the classroom or beyond.

I tell her to work your hardest every day to be better than you were yesterday. The standard you set for yourself is the standard you will become.

Being a professional athlete/tennis player is a different path and if you want to be different then you have to “be different.”

I tell her to get up in the morning and do the best you can then go to sleep and get back up in the morning and do it all over again.

What is the most satisfying part of being a professional tennis player/coach?

The most satisfying part of being a professional tennis player when I was playing tennis was to work hard at getting it right on the court, to see the world while doing it, and the relationships that I made that have lasted a lifetime.

The two most satisfying parts of being a professional tennis player/coach now is one, that I have a platform of experience to speak from to mentor, motivate, inspire, and change the lives of young players; and two, I have experience to initiate growth, change, and innovative initiatives as well.

What has it been like seeing your daughters pursue tennis?

(Laughs) This may be the most satisfying and difficult aspect of my tennis career to date.  I want the best for them, so as a parent that is emotional. As a coach, you know that the tough lessons are often the best lessons.  But, at the end of the day I know that the life lessons and experiences that tennis will afford them will make them better human beings with the game in their lives than without.

To continue advancing the role women have in sports, USTA Mid-Atlantic is building a dynamic community of women who will have a strong, positive, collective impact on communities across the region. Led by Jeri Ingram, the Women’s Giving Circle brings together women who share common philanthropic goals and want to become more involved philanthropically in tennis. To learn more about how to join the giving circle and be a leader in the tennis community, please contact Helen Li at li@mas.usta.com.

A Beginner’s Guide to Tennis Inspiration

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.

Next up in this mini-series is McKenzie. McKenzie is a TGA Premier Youth Tennis afterschool tennis player in Virginia. We sat down with McKenzie at her last TGA class of the winter session and talked to her about her tennis inspirations as a beginner in the sport. McKenzie earned her yellow wristband and a TGA hat that day so this was a pretty special moment!

Mckenzie screen shot

How did you first start playing tennis?

My mom taught me how to play tennis at first. It was really cool to learn from my mom because I didn’t really know she could play tennis.  And my mom is good teacher!


What do you like about learning tennis after school with TGA?

My favorite part of learning tennis with TGA is making new friends and learning new things.  I feel really proud and I feel good because I accomplished something new.


Would you ever want to play tennis as a job?

Yeah! Tennis makes you really strong and I like playing tennis because it is challenging so it [tennis as a job] would be challenging and I like that!


Do you know any professional tennis players and what do you think of them?

The Williams Sisters! They make me feel like I could be doing the same thing one day – we are both girls so I feel like I can do what they do.

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. Learn more about how we’re making a difference in lives across the Mid-Atlantic: www.usta.com/midatlanticimpact

This is Mid-Atlantic Tennis: Mehrban Iranshad

This post is part of a series that tell the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section. Meet Mehrban Iranshad from Bethesda, Md. Mehrban grew up as a competitive junior player and has found new ways to satisfy his passion for tennis as an adult. To share your story or send to someone you know, click here.

Where do you live? Where are you from?

I live in Bethesda, Maryland.  I have lived in the great state of Maryland all my life (Laurel, Silver Spring)!  Ironically, I am allergic to crabs.

How did you get started playing tennis?

My dad brought me to the tennis courts at Savage Park frequently as a little kid.  I tried other sports like basketball, soccer, and baseball, but I enjoyed tennis the most.

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Photo: Tennisfiles.com

What did you like about tennis as a junior? Is it different as an adult?

As a junior, I really enjoyed the competitive aspect of tennis, striving to win tournaments, and improving my rankings.  As an adult, I am more focused on improving my game and helping others become better players as well.

What drew you back to tennis as an adult?

After playing college tennis at UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and making the NCAA DI team tournament my senior year, I took a break during law school.   Then my best friend Victor Ng told me about a Howard County USTA league team he was playing on, captained by one of the best captains of all time, Steve McCoy. I had so much fun playing in the league with such a great group of people, and it rekindled my love for tennis.

How are you currently involved in tennis?

I am heavily involved in tennis.  I host a tennis podcast (The Tennis Files Podcast), maintain a tennis blog (tennisfiles.com) to help players improve their game, host online tennis conferences (Tennis Summit), and I am the Vice President of the Montgomery County Tennis Association.  I am also an attorney at the Food and Drug Administration, so I don’t get bored too often!

What’s your favorite tennis memory?

My favorite tennis memory is placing third at the 2015 Tri-Level National Championships in Indian Wells.  Victor and I won both our doubles matches two years after a soul-crushing loss in a third-set tiebreaker in the same tournament.  It was an amazing experience to play on the same courts that the pros do, and then have the privilege to watch them compete after our own matches.  We had a fantastic team, and playing a Nationals tournament at the same time and place as one of the best and biggest professional tournaments of the year cannot be beat!

How has your relationship with tennis changed over the years? How has it impacted your life?

Tennis has evolved for me from a competitive outlet and confidence builder as a junior to a game that has helped me build some of the strongest and most important relationships in my life.  Many of my closest friends play tennis, and I owe several of my life and career advancements to my involvement in this wonderful sport.  I have improved my life drastically by implementing the lessons I have learned on the court to my life off the court.  I have met incredible friends, had long conversations with top coaches and grand slam champions, and connected with many kind people all because I was fortunate enough that my mom and dad put a racquet in my hand and continued to invest in my pursuit of the game throughout my life.  Tennis has had an extremely positive impact in my life, and I feel very lucky to be involved in the game.

The Importance of Role Models by Megan Moulton-Levy

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!

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Photo courtesy of JTCC

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.