As part of our ongoing Pro-Women initiative, USTA Florida is celebrating all the women whose passion and presence continue to fuel the growth and success of tennis — at every level. We’re committed to supporting, elevating, and attracting diverse women to all aspects of the tennis industry in Florida.
The Director of Tennis at Coral Reef Park Tennis Center, Kara Borromeo’s earliest tennis memory was her mom taking her to the US Open. Borromeo credits her mom with shaping her life and encouraging her to achieve any goal she set her mind to. She instills those same values in the students she teaches tennis to. Recently named USPTA Coach of the Year, Borromeo believes tennis at its core should be fun! Born in the Philippines, she understands the value of having diverse coaches as role models for future generations of tennis players.
Tell us about the programs you run at Coral Reef Park Tennis Center and your overall coaching philosophy.
My staff and I run programs and lessons for ages 5 through adults. We teach using all the different colored balls, red, orange, green dot, and regular (yellow). Myself and my staff’s philosophy for teaching is first of all to have fun! Learn the proper technique, learn the proper form, but still learn to have fun in this sport that also teaches you about life. Once we feel that a student gets to a certain level where they can score, play sets, games, we encourage them to start competing. We go Junior Team Tennis (JTT), or you can go individual tennis. We let the junior themselves make that choice. Once they decide, I let them know once they start competing that they play for themselves – not for mom, not for dad, not for me – they play for themselves. They need to realize it is still about having fun!
Your mom played a really big role in your life. Can you talk about the influence she had on you growing up and the values she instilled in you that have most shaped your own path in life?
My mom was a tough cookie. Very strict. I didn’t understand that back then, but I do now. Very disciplinarian, yet she always wanted the best for me. She gave me the “never give up” attitude that she instilled in me. She instilled in me to be very disciplined in whatever I chose to do. But also let me know that at a young age, to strive for whatever I wanted in life and as long as I believed in myself, I could succeed.
There aren’t many women who serve as Directors of Tennis or even Head Teaching Professionals, and even fewer of those women have diverse backgrounds. Can you talk about what drives you to do this work and why do you feel it is important to encourage more women of diverse backgrounds to serve in those Director roles at both public parks and private clubs?
I don’t believe my gender and ethnicity had anything to do with choosing my career, it was my passion for tennis. I love tennis. As far as encouraging other women and women of diverse backgrounds, I believe it goes beyond tennis. I believe we need to encourage women to pursue their dreams and passions even in careers that are mostly and have historically been male-dominated.
It’s fairly uncommon for men or women to have women coaches growing up. What impact do you think it has on the kids you teach to have a strong, successful woman like you as their coach from a young age and how does it shape their view of women as they go out into the world?
I think you would have to ask my juniors what they think about having me as their coach. But if I know my juniors, I think their first reply would be like, “It’s cool!” If you were to ask my parents, however, I have quite a few parents – and more fathers than mothers – who request me to teach their young daughters of diverse backgrounds because they see me as a role model to their young daughters.
Why do you think there aren’t more women coaches and coaches just generally with diverse backgrounds in tennis today?
Change comes slowly and historically tennis, like many other elite sports, has large barriers to entry. However, slowly things are changing, and I hope that many more diverse background coaches and college players become coaches in the next couple of years. If this happens, think about the sheer numbers! If you think about the numbers, we will have a larger pool of talented players to grasp from and tennis would benefit!
What do you think tennis in general needs to do differently to attract and retain more of those diverse coaches?
I have some ideas, but I’ll say right now I don’t know. However, I see myself in a unique position and I am willing to collaborate with USTA to attract and retain diverse coaches.
What advice would you offer to women who are interested in coaching but may be hesitant to take on that higher-level position as a Head Teaching Professional or Director of Tennis?
I would tell them they need to be very mentally strong. They have to have tough skin. You have to have a great support system, a great group of people around you. Lastly, you need to believe in yourself and have confidence. Exactly what my mom taught me.
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