USTA Florida is celebrating Black History Month this February by shining the spotlight on members of the vast Florida tennis community. In a special feature this month, Paul Segodo introduces himself as a tennis instructor based in Brandon, Florida who teaches aspiring juniors to play at the high school and collegiate levels, and beyond.
What is your name? Paul Segodo
Birthplace? I was born in Benin, Cotonou, Africa.
Current city? I am currently residing in Brandon, Florida.
What your current role (job), what you do, and how it is related to tennis? I am a tennis instructor here in Brandon, Florida and teach aspiring juniors to play for their high schools, collegiate level and beyond. However, we do have programs for every level young or old.
How did you get involved in tennis? By the grace of God, I was introduced to tennis at the age of six in Benin, Africa. I was taught by my father, Joseph Segodo, who was a tennis instructor and player himself. At the age of nine, I had the opportunity to represent my country in an African Championship held in Egypt. While I was there playing I got discovered by Rafael Font De Mora, Meghann Shangnessy’s past coach. He offered me a scholarship to come to the United Stated to train and the rest was history. With the Rafa and the Whytas families, I was able to train and played many high level junior tournaments. At 18 years old I represented my country and played Davis Cup for Benin. I went on to receive another full scholarship to Palm Beach Atlantic University and played all four years and ended my collegiate career as an all American. Tennis has been a sport that has opened many doors and opportunities for me.
What would you say is your greatest contribution to the sport? I believe the greatest contribution to the sport is to share the love of the game with others. Tennis is a game that provides many benefits to an individual. Playing tennis adds to physical and mental well being. It can also provide many life lessons such as hard work, dedication, determination, honesty and focus This is why the best way to contribute to the game is to pass it on to people in our community, city and state.
Does your family play tennis? Yes, my whole family plays tennis. All my brothers and sisters play and I have passed on the love of the game to my children as well.
Why is it important to celebrate Black History Month in general, as well as in tennis? It’s important to celebrate black History month because it highlights our brothers’ and sisters’ contributions to American society and their achievements in the game of tennis.
Why is celebrating Black History important to you? It’s important to me because, Our brothers and sisters have added tremendous value to America and the world for many generations and continue to do so. It’s also important to celebrate those who have fought, and given their lives for blacks to enjoy their God giving freedom that is for all humanity to partake in. Celebrating black history month is another way to make sure the next generation remembers our heroes.
How has black history inspired you in tennis or your life in general? I have been inspired by all nationalities of people young and old, but I can’t overlook the examples of the greats such as: Arthur Ash, Yannick Noah, William sisters and many others when it comes to their contribution and achievements in the game of tennis.
Recently, the conversation within many industries has been about racial equality, inclusion and what is being done to encourage it. How would you like to see the conversation impact the tennis industry? What I love about sports is that it has the ability to bring everyone together and break barriers. It does not discriminate. We as people can learn a lot from the sport we play and teach, we all have the ability to love. If we as people would just remember even though we don’t look the same, we all bleed RED, feel, love and hurt the same. Then showing inclusion to our brothers and sisters no matter their nationality, race or color should be simple.
Why is it important to not only support and celebrate other cultures, but be inclusive to all? I love what the good book (Bible) says, treat others as you would like to be treated. I believe we are all better together and can learn so much from each other. God has given each one of us a gift. The purpose of the gift is to serve everyone with it no matter their nationality or race. Together we have the solution.
What is the mission behind your non for profit and why did you create it? Tennis for a Better Life (TFBL) is a 501C3 non for profit organization that is very dear to my heart. It’s my story. I started Tennis for a Better Life ten years ago because I saw the need to help provide tennis clinics, educational scholarships, refurbish and build tennis courts and provide equipment to those without the resources. Tennis has given me a brighter future and this is why the mission of the organization is to “Help Children Play their way to a Better Future.” I come from a very poor family and it’s only by the grace of God I was able to use tennis as a tool to come to the United States to seek greater opportunities. My gift is tennis and through the TFBL organization, we share the love of the game and the hope of a brighter future with underprivileged children in Africa and the United States.
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.