USTA Florida is celebrating Black History Month this February by shining the spotlight on members of the vast Florida tennis community. Kicking off the month in Q&A fashion is a Tennis Instructor known and endeared by many as Michael Fowler Jr. who coaches at Bollettieri Tennis & Learning. Fowler takes a beat to reflect with us on what Black History Month means to him.
What is your name? Michael Fowler Jr.
How old are you? 37 years old
Birthplace? Baltimore, MD
Current city? Bradenton, FL
What your current role (job), what you do, and how it is related to tennis? I am an independent Tennis Coach, as well as a Tennis Instructor for Bollettieri Tennis & Learning.
How did you get involved in tennis? I got involved with tennis through my parents. They played, so naturally I picked up the game through them very early in my youth.
What would you say is your greatest contribution to the sport? My greatest contribution to tennis is being a coach. I’m considered the “fun coach” and I simply attribute that to my joy for what I do. Tennis is Fun, and being able to teach someone else to have fun is a blessing.
Does your family play tennis? Yes indeed, my whole family plays and takes to heart the sentiment that tennis is a lifetime sport.
Why is it important to celebrate Black History Month in general, as well as in tennis? For me, as an African-American male, celebrating black history month is important because it highlights the opportunity to recognize what history tried to marginalize. The history books in grade school tend to leave out a lot of information, and the existence of Black History Month is evidence that the human soul in each of us cannot be silenced or forgotten. Knowing the journey of those before us (even in tennis) gives us Hope, Inspiration and Strength. And the celebration of that is always needed.
Why is celebrating Black history important to you? Because at the core of it I am Black History. So, for me the month is almost an Accountability partner. I can’t forget that others have fought hard, survived and flourished so I may enjoy Hope, Inspiration and Strength. Therefore, I must be accountable to pay it forward for the next generation.
How has Black history inspired you in tennis, or, your life in general? I hate to sound redundant, but the journey of Black Tennis Players before me has given me Hope, Inspiration, Strength and even Joy. There is also a big sense of pride I’m able to enjoy by being aware of Black history. And all of these feelings have helped push me forward to being a better person.
Recently the conversation within many industries has been about racial equality, inclusion, and what’s being done to encourage it. How would you like to see these conversations impact the tennis industry? Honestly I would love to see more unity in tennis. The sport in general is very, very “tribal” and the recognition of this is a huge first step. Too often the joy of the sport is taken away when there is racial inequality or when someone feels unwelcome. So I would like us to address the elephant in the room and then work together to unite.
Why is it important to not only support and celebrate other cultures, but be inclusive to all? Because we all need each other. No one race or culture is better than another, but everyone joined together is unstoppable. It’s important to celebrate each other because our livelihood as humans depends on it.
If you’re interested in sharing your own story, experience or suggestions with us, please visit www.USTAFlorida.com/Amplify. To learn more about USTA Florida’s Amplify Project: the long-term initiative to engage and amplify Black voices throughout the Florida tennis community, click here.