Serving Compton: Tennis Star Sloane Stephens Focuses on Grassroots Youth Empowerment — Inside Philanthropy

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Serving Compton: Tennis Star Sloane Stephens Focuses on Grassroots Youth Empowerment — Inside Philanthropy


A lot of as we speak’s athletes are incomes greater than ever, ushering in an unprecedented period of sports activities philanthropy. We’ve been monitoring a few of these figures and their nascent giving throughout leagues just like the NBA and the NFL. Previous to the French Open, held unusually late this 12 months, we additionally lately examined rising givers from the tennis world, together with 27-year-old American star Sloane Stephens.

Born in Florida, Stephens began taking part in tennis when she was 9 on the opposite facet of the nation, within the Golden State. She took dwelling her first Grand Slam title on the U.S. Open in 2017, the primary non-American not named Serena or Venus to take action in years, earlier than Sofia Kenin gained this 12 months’s Australian Open. Stephens soared as excessive as No. 3 rating on the WTA and at the moment sits at 39. Alongside the way in which, she’s earned some huge cash. It’s unclear precisely how a lot she’s value however she is at the moment one of many high earners within the sport, nabbing sponsorship offers with the likes of Nike and Head.

Income for elite tennis gamers is generated not simply from prize cash earned, but in addition sponsorship offers, which include incentives and reductions relying on rating and placement in tournaments. In 2018 alone, Stephens earned $11.2 million, with $5.7 million within the type of prize cash and the remaining endorsements, based on Forbes.

In 2013, Stephens launched the Sloane Stephens Basis (SSF), which assists in creating a constructive future for younger individuals by offering academic alternatives and inspiring wholesome existence, correct diet, and participation in bodily health actions. Notably, Stephens launched the muse when she was simply 20 years outdated.

Stringing the racket, launching a basis

“She all the time knew that she needed to provide again, and being an expert tennis participant, she was in a position to amplify that,” says SSF Director of Growth Lindsay Linhart.

Linhart joined the nonprofit area after a half-decade at Goldman Sachs. Nonetheless, she first related with Stephens once they had been each on the identical Florida tennis academy. Linhart injured her ankle mid-game and says that Stephens was the primary to storm the court docket and luxury her. They exchanged contact info and have been mates ever since.

The lean SSF board consists of Stephens’ mom Sybil Smith and uncle, Ronald Smith, each of whom maintain doctorates in schooling. Sybil Smith labored as a college psychologist for 3 a long time. The truth is, your complete Stephens household locations a excessive worth on schooling, with a number of aunts and uncles sporting doctorates. One other is a choose. Stephens’ Trinidad-born grandfather is a physician and her grandmother based a women group for tutoring, mentoring and cultural exploration.

Given this background, when Sloane began fascinated with methods to provide again and add worth, she naturally settled on the concept of schooling.

A Compton focus

Whereas Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson and the Williams sisters have paved the way in which for a relatively extra various discipline as we speak, tennis continues to be a predominantly white sport of privilege with a excessive barrier to entry, requiring costly tools and individualized teaching.

A collegiate swimmer, Smith launched Stephens to the tennis courts of Southern California, the place a lot of the muse’s work now facilities. Tapping Smith’s connections inside the Compton Unified College District, in 2015, SSF launched its flagship program, Love, Love Compton, along side Compton college directors, principals and academics. This system gives an ongoing mannequin that builds on the academic basis of the college district, with a tennis twist.

“We’ve grown from one elementary college, introducing tennis on a mini-court throughout recess. Now it really works like a mini sports activities league. We additionally provide tutoring, ACT/SAT prep and a management program that introduces college students into areas of management that might be useful,” Smith defined to me.

Compton’s demographics have modified through the years. As soon as generally known as a predominantly Black group, whose natives and/or residents have included actor Anthony Anderson, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Venus and Serena Williams, to not point out a slew of rap legends like Dr. Dre, as we speak, Compton is majority Hispanic. Some 70% of Compton residents establish as Hispanic, based on 2019 Census information.

“Quite a bit don’t communicate English within the dwelling. Studying proficiency is essential. Virtually all college students are eligible without spending a dime or decreased meals. For Sloane, these children are a part of her household,” Linhart explains.

Love Love Compton serves the group’s youth, together with college students who’re homeless, dwelling as fosters, DACA recipients, and people coping with gang violence. For these causes, SSF and its management have made positive that their grassroots academic programming addresses the distinctive wants of the group they serve. Each Smith and Linhart make it clear that tennis is the car, not the tip aim. Nonetheless, tennis is crucial to this system’s work, which now consists of after-school, weekend and summer season tennis.

This system has touched 25 faculties to date, the majority of them elementary faculties inside Compton Unified College District. Greater than 4,000 college students have participated in programming and volunteers have supplied 21,000 hours of service. SSF additionally lately tapped a number of VISTA Fellows to drive among the faculty prep work the muse is engaged in.

All of the coaches that work in this system are from Compton and all of the tutors hail from Compton Unified College District, making certain that these grownup position fashions have shared experiences with the group they serve. “We’ve been ensuring this program is by the group, for the group. We didn’t need outdoors individuals coming in… They’re already very conscious of scholars, their dwelling conditions and particular tutoring that they want.” Linhart says. SFF pays wages to those mentors, investing in Compton that method, as properly.

SFF prefers this hands-on strategy, with Smith herself driving all the way down to Compton to ship provides to college students through the pandemic.

A dependable mannequin, and Stephens as activist

Smith says that down the road, their programming might be expanded to work in cohorts of bigger college districts, and even work with different sports activities past tennis. “We now have a robust mannequin. We do the identical factor at every college, so it’s very clear for faculties to see what will occur on the court docket and off… It truly is phrase of mouth. For us, it’s vital that management buys in first and acknowledges the work,” Smith instructed me.

Up to now, the muse has been virtually fully self-funded by Stephens, with different help coming from the USTA and USTA Basis, in addition to smaller outdoors donations. SFF is now engaged on creating an advisory board, drawing in individuals from across the nation which have already proven curiosity within the basis. As soon as the pandemic eases, Linhart says they plan on doing in-person fundraising occasions. “Proper now, although, it’s about elevating consciousness about the way it’s extra related than simply educating children tennis. L.A. is an unbelievable market, so there’s much more we might be doing right here to lift the phrase about what we’re doing.”

Although generally known as an all-court participant who dominates matches whereas staying behind the baseline, Stephens has used her rising voice and platform—she has almost 230,000 followers on Twitter and almost 500,000 on Instagram—to talk out for social change, as properly.

“To be a Black skilled athlete in America is a good alternative to be seen and heard as a Black girl. I really feel it’s our accountability to make use of it correctly… individuals see us on TV and typically overlook we’re extra than simply an athlete,” Stephens wrote in an Instagram submit. She partnered with Lebron James and different athletes on Extra Than A Vote, getting the phrase out about voter registration and opening up services for use as voting websites.

Trying ahead, whereas SSF management plans on increasing, their lean and hands-on strategy will possible proceed. “High quality is extra vital than amount. Our focus is on high quality individuals and constructing high quality relationships. With out that, we don’t have the affect we at the moment have,” Smith explains.

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