sports equal…a game that gives back

Mia Parker picked up her first tennis racket when she was 5 or 6.  Her Dad, Lonnie, worked as a strength and conditioning coach at a country club, and he received free child care for his three kids while he was at work. This arrangement allowed Mia and her two brothers to join in on tennis lessons at the club, and her love for the game grew. Mia’s family lived in Compton, California, and there weren’t a lot of affordable opportunities for kids to play tennis. Lonnie would barter with some of his tennis clients to provide coaching to Mia in exchange for his services, and so she was able to learn more about the game and started playing in tournaments, with her dad along as her coach.

Two years ago, the Sloane Stephens Foundation (SSF) started working with schools in the Compton area to introduce tennis to kids, and Mia was able to connect with SSF through that program. This year, SSF designed a program for kids who wanted to pursue the sport further, and several of those kids applied for the Every Kid Sports Pass to cover the cost of the program. Mia was one of these kids, and she was able to receive high-level coaching through the program in her own community for the first time.

“Mia is generous with the knowledge that she has gained through the opportunities she had to play at the country club. She has gone from a court that has fresh towels, a water machine, a snack bar…to the courts in Compton, where we often had to sweep off broken beer bottles before we played. She understands that the kids she is playing with didn’t have the same opportunities, and she will help other players and give them tips, even during a match. She respects what the game has given her, and she wants to give back,” says Lonnie.

If you ask Mia what tennis has given her, she says mental toughness is one benefit she gets from the game. “Tennis has made me mentally stronger. You have to think about every point and the strategy that it takes to win; it’s a mental game.”

Mia’s grades also improved as she played more tennis. “Tennis relieves a lot of stress, and after practice, I’m able to sit down and focus on my schoolwork.”  She ended her 8th-grade year with a 4.13 GPA, and that, along with her athletic talent, has landed her a partial scholarship to St. Joseph’s, a private school with a strong tennis program in Santa Maria, CA.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Mia, both academically and athletically, and an incredible opportunity for our family. We have moved to be near the school, and are staying temporarily in a cottage until we find a home.” The school has hired Lonnie as a coach, and her mom is managing a winery near the school. The family is fundraising to cover the rest of the tuition and has received private donations as well. “We are going to make this work,” says Lonnie.

Mia’s goal is to attend a four-year university and hone her tennis skills even further as a collegiate athlete. She names Naomi Osaka as her role model, both on and off the court, and hopes to emulate her as she develops her game. In the meantime, she has had opportunities to model for United States Tennis Association and portrayed a young Serena Williams in a documentary about the tennis star. We look forward to following Mia’s journey, and are proud to call her an Every Kid Sports All-Star!

– The Every Kid Sports team