Venecca Green Highlight Story
With February being Black History Month, we want to take the opportunity to have a Q&A with Venecca Green, who is involved in the tennis community in just about every way a person could be. Green is not only an avid player, but has long been a volunteer, served on USTA committees, started her own NJTL program, captained numerous adult and junior teams, is a certified Level 2 PTR Coach, and is now the head coach at Lane College, an HBCU program in Jackson, TN.
- Tell us the story of how you got involved in tennis
I was introduced to tennis during the late 60s early 70s timeframe by one of my middle school teachers, Fred McGee at Grove Park. I don’t remember all of the details of my lessons, but I do remember that I fell in love with the sport and wanted to play every day. One of the biggest tournaments during that time was the Urban League Tennis Tournament. I remember longing to be a good enough player to play in this tournament. Before the NTRP, a player was rated A, B, or C. A rating was for the advanced player and C was for the beginner player. I watched and learned from the ”good” players until I played well enough to enter the C division. From this beginning, I have played and captained adult and junior USTA league teams, I have served on MTA and USTA Southern committees, I have established an NJTL, I have managed a successful tennis facility in one of the most under resourced areas of Jackson. I am a PTR certified Level 2 tennis professional. I am now coaching men and women at Lane College, a SIAC, Division II. I am a witness that tennis is a sport for lifetime. Through tennis I have met so many wonderful people and have been afforded some awesome experiences.
- What is it about tennis that made you fall in love with the game?
What got me hooked on tennis is the challenge of hitting a ball across a net keeping it in a defined target area all the while competing against another player to win. I like the mental fortitude needed to fight until the last point. Unlike sports like basketball and football that have a set amount of time to play, tennis has no set time limit. A match is not over until one player scores a set number of games to win a match. Tennis is a sport where I can directly measure and compare my tennis skills and abilities against other players through competition. What also sets tennis apart from other activities or sports is that tennis allows you to progress at your own pace and you are still able to play someone at your level. As you progressively get better, you can continue to find players to play and challenge you.
- Who are some figures in the game that have had the most influence on you?
Of course, I would not be playing tennis were not for my teacher Fred McGee. I was inspired as a beginner player by Armetha Anthony, she was an awesome player, she coached at St. Joseph, and she is an amazing person. Coach Maxine Johnson inspired me with her fierce competitiveness and mental toughness. Gregg Tripp was the best tennis teacher I have ever had. Under Gregg Tutelage, my game improved 100 times over. Henry Harris influenced my methods and my teaching style as it relates to managing players and people. I look up to Henry Harris as a skillful and smart tennis player, as well as an honest and giving person. Henry is my go-to when I need advice and guidance.
- How did you go from becoming a player to getting involved in volunteering, coaching, mentoring, and doing things off the court for others?
I started playing league tennis in the Mid-Atlantic Region. From the start I was voted to be the captain of my team. So going from a player to becoming involved in more aspects of the game happened organically. I did not set the goal of becoming a Level 2 PTR head coach at an HBCU, I merely followed the steps God put before me in my quest to improve the lives of children and their families through the game of tennis. I have found it challenging as I enjoy the many opportunities the tennis industry has to offer. By captaining teams I have accepted the calling and mission of service to the underserved communities in Jackson. Under my leadership, I added teams to Tennis South and Battlefield Park in record numbers. I believe that it is important to play in these communities so that the children and families that live in those communities get opportunities to see people who look like them play the sport. Managing programs at these two facilities helped me transition to working with NJTL and Jr Team Tennis programs. I continued the practice of my first teacher Fred McGee of giving back to the sport at no cost. It was a logical progression to work with the MTA Tennis Apprentice Program to help grow the game of tennis. Through these programs, I begin helping players transition onto 2.0/2.5 league teams. It was important to me to help them grow in confidence to be able to captain themselves. When I found out about the Captain Mentorship Program, I encouraged players to co-captain teams and then transition to captain the following year. Since about 2009, I have captained hundreds of league teams at all levels and flights. I have captained as many as 20 teams in a year. I am intentional about captaining teams out of Tennis South and Battlefield. It is important to me that children of color see tennis played where they live and play just as I did. This makes playing a non-traditional sport accessible and a real possibility for them. Without a lot of effort, my life is tennis and I am called coach by more players than I can count. It made sense to get certified. As a coach, I have seen how players transform personally when their games improve. Now as a Level 2 coach, the path that brought me here was always there, I took the scenic route to get here. My next goal is to educate and lead young players, targeting players of color, into a career in the tennis industry. At every opportunity, I invite people to give tennis a try. Tennis is so much more than a game to so many. Tennis changes and save lives, it brings diverse lives together; and creates a space for inclusion and belonging.
- How has tennis impacted your life?
Tennis has impacted my life physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually. Physically I have been able to continue to play for more than 50 years. Mentally to compete in tennis I am challenged to think, and problem solve to try to win a point, a game or a match. The mental aspect of tennis is helpful in keeping my mind alert and focused as I age. Emotionally I am able to blow off steam and also get recharged by playing a fun, competitive match. I have so many special, happy and not so happy memories of tennis. Not to mention the many relationships I have formed over tennis. Financially I have acquired certifications and skills that allow me to make money by teaching lessons, hosting seminars, working as an umpire and also running tournaments. As long as I am able, I will have an ability to earn through tennis. Spiritually God has allowed me to meet God-fearing people who have helped me to grow in His love. Tennis has been a vehicle to minister of God's love to others and it has been an instrument by which God showed me things I needed to change about myself, ways I needed to help others, and even times when I needed to step away from situations to allow Him to do His work. The gift of tennis has truly been a blessing to me.
- You’ve been involved in volunteering, coaching, playing, advocating, and being an ambassador for the sport on and off the court… what has been your favorite and most rewarding part?
To date, the most rewarding part of being an ambassador for the sport on and off the court isworking with and recruiting beginner players, adults and children. Teaching someone who has never held a racquet and watching their skill level improve to where they are able to compete is indescribable. Over the years I have had the privilege to teach and play tennis with so many players. I am blessed and humbled when I hear that someone gives me any amount of credit for helping or inspiring their game.
- What legacy or impact do you hope to leave?
As Founder of the Friends of Battlefield Park Foundation, Inc., I would like to see Battlefield Park and the Dorothy Vest Tennis Center restored, improved and expanded to the beautiful and safe park it could and should be to serve the citizens of Jackson and its visitors coming through. Additionally, I would like to see public parks and tennis courts in Jackson full of children and families again. Lastly, and most important to me, I would like to leave a legacy that inspires adult players to “give” a portion of their time to support organization, school or NJTL in underserved and under-resourced areas of the state of Mississippi. Tennis is and can be a vehicle for a positive change that gets and keeps children on track to a safe and productive future.