I grew up in Compton Los Angeles, which is quite different from Hollywood. When we were kids, my siblings and I spent all day training and competing against each other in the broken down courts of our neighborhood. We were always reminded by our parents that our start, was exactly that, a start. We trained hard with borrowed equipment, dreams in full bloom and an old shopping cart full of used tennis balls from a country club across town. We’d hit those balls so hard ‘til they had no ounce of bounce left in them.
Every given sunny day, Venus and I would train so much our sweat showered more than it rained. The more we trained, the more we competed and the harder we worked, the more we won. Then, Venus was my biggest competition on the court. She was tall, graceful and so fast she could run across the baseline in three strides. I wanted to be just like her and copied everything she did. I got to play the best every day and though I didn’t win initially- my sister helped improve my game. Win or lose, we’d hug it out and remember we’re each other’s biggest fans off the court.
My perspective on greatness came from losses endured. Now, it takes a really long time before I lose again. Those times taught me more than my wins and I wouldn’t take any of them away. Sometimes failure occurs and when it happens, fail quickly and move on- is what I try and remind myself. I learn from my mistakes and try not to repeat the same patterns. Admittedly, it probably takes me a few days to recover but I always came around eventually.
As the younger sibling, my build was naturally smaller, my legs were a little shorter and I moved a little slower but my hunger to succeed made up for what I lacked then. It’s no secret that I hate to lose and I am number one at that too. The first time I beat Venus, the moment I’d been working so hard for was overwhelmed with humility as I felt a gentle pat of pride on my shoulder. In that moment I realized the importance of sisterhood; I think about how I wouldn’t be where I am without her. The most rewarding part of this whole journey is that my sister stood with me throughout and believed that like her, I could be a champion too.
To all my sisters, my name is Serena Williams and I stand with you and encourage you because the world has space for us all to shine.
Aspire to be great, go for your dreams and don’t let the world dictate your existence.