Awarded as the 2015 USTA Florida Family of the Year, two of the members of the Pleasant family, Tim (Father) and Lilly (daughter) shared with us some of their story — why they love tennis and their feelings about Black History Month.
What is your name? Tim Pleasant
What do you currently do? Head tennis Ccach for men and women at Bethune-Cookman University
How did you get involved in tennis? My father starting playing at the local park and I used to tag along and play with him, and then the adults always needed a fourth player so they let me play and I picked up a few things along the way until I started to really enjoy the sport and wanted to compete. Next thing you know I was playing 4-5 days per week and was playing No. 1 on my high school team.
What is the significance of Black History Month to you? It’s a chance to honor those who laid the pathway for people today and for our kids in the future. The struggles they faced and had to overcome just to have the rights to be a human being is an honor we pay back to them this month.
Do you currently celebrate this month? Yes!
What kind of activities do you do? We home school our children, therefore, we focus our history projects on people who have influenced the lives of Americans who are of African-American descent. This year my children are doing research projects on Martin Luther King Jr., Madam C.J. Walker, Lewis Latimor, and George Washington Carver.
What do you think has contributed to the growth of tennis and the participation of the African American community in the recreational and competitive levels over the years? One major factor in the growth of tennis in the African-American community has been the ease of access to tennis in the parks now and in the schools. Back when I was growing up you could play tennis in the parks or at the local school courts all day on the weekends and in the evenings, then all of a sudden in the ’90s and early 2000s tennis changed and disappeared in the parks and schools. Now, I appreciate the efforts of the USTA to focus on programs directly aimed at kids and adults participating in programs made available in the park and school systems. I believe at the competitive level, we are seeing more and more African-American players due to the success of the Williams sisters — due to the fact of where they came from, and how much exposure they have received due to their success. By being the face of women’s tennis for the last 15 years or more, African-Americans can easily reflect with the Williams sisters.
What do you like the most about tennis and how has it impacted your life? I actually really enjoy the sport as a player and as a coach. Since I get to enjoy both sides of tennis, it actually consumes my life. I work in tennis, my hobby is tennis, and my family is involved in tennis. It provides a pathway that can open doors to my family and hopefully one day help pay for an education with a college scholarship. Tennis can provide myself and my family a recreational avenue and a competitive avenue for the rest of our lives. It allows us to decide how serious we want to take the sport and how much we decide to enjoy the sport as well.
What are you most proud of? That tennis has allowed me to work and play at the same time. There is not a day where I am stressed, and I believe I am living a dream. Tennis also gives my family an outlet from life itself as they enjoy the days they do get to play.
What message do you have for parents and children looking for a sport to play? Find a sport that they really enjoy. If they ask to play each day or they ask to go back, then go back. If you do not have to force your kids or yourself to go, then you have found something you all enjoy. You will never really enjoy something if you simply do not like being there.
What is your name? Lilly
How long have you been playing tennis? Seven years I believe
Why did you start playing tennis? My mother and father used to play with us in the driveway and my father took me to work with him all the time and I would just follow him on the court and help pick up balls and he always had me hit balls after lessons with other people. I was always around the tennis center when we used to live in South Carolina and I always had a racket and balls in my hand.
What do you like the most about tennis? Playing with my brothers and sisters in the driveway and on the red-ball courts.
What is your favorite memory on the tennis court? Winning the state singles tournament, and then also winning the state doubles, and then the state mixed doubles with my brother.
Why? It was a goal of mine before turning 11.
Does your school celebrate Black History Month? If so, what do you do during this time? I go to school at home, so our history class this month has been focused on learning about great African-American people who were inventors, scientists, and leaders of our communities.
Who is your favorite player? Rafael Nadal
What do you want to say to other kids who currently do not play tennis? It is fun, please start with the red and orange balls first and enjoy playing team tennis and beginner-level tournaments because that’s when its less competitive and really about how fun tennis can be. Plus you get more prizes and treats at those events as well. Tennis also allows you to play on a team or to play for yourself. Its also a sport you can play with your family.