“ There is no such thing as pressure. As Black Americans, that’s all we’ve ever had. It’s life. So where is the pressure?”
Quote by Oracene Price
Nature or nurture? Are geniuses born or are they made? Was Albert Einstein born a genius or did he become one? What about MJ? – Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, take a pick of the MJ you connect with!
If like many others you have long wondered what the answer is, meet the Williams Sisters and wonder no more. This past weekend as they made history again the world over, Team LR brings you their story of planning, focus, perseverance and hard work. A story worthy of this motivational space because it is a reminder that with unshaken resolve, unprecedented determination and grit there will be no limits to how far each of us can go.
Their story begins once upon a time, some 39 years prior to the weekend of 28th January 2017 when the world once again stood still for the Williams Sisters at the Australian Open. On that day, a man, sat watching TV. It was Sunday, June 11, 1978. As this man was channel surfing, he stumbled on a tennis match and he was struck by astonishment when the winner, a Romanian player named Virginia Ruzici, was presented with a $40,000 cheque. Which was more than what he earned in a year!
So it was that the TV channel surfing man decided right then that his next two daughters were going to be professional tennis players. Please note that they were yet unborn.
So, this security guard, Cotton picker’s son, a high school dropout whose tennis pedigree could fit on a postage stamp, decided to take action. As a middle aged black man, he decided to teach himself the remarkably complex game of tennis. With hindsight, if we really think about it now, we find that his decision to learn the game was the one logical thing for this man to have done. This is because as already stated, before then he knew nothing about tennis so he definitely didn’t have the genes to pass on to his kids. Nature would play no part in this! Moreover, this was in the early 80s so there was no option to create genetically modified, designer tennis playing babies! Technology had no part either! With no short cuts – or like Tupac once said “no fairy tales for the young black male” – he had only one option, which was the long path of high resistance. His first step on this path was to teach himself how to pay the game using VHS tapes – no YouTube back then either!!!!!
So Richard Williams wrote an average 78-page plan for the two girls, scrounged a shopping cart full of 10¢ balls and together with Oracene Price, his second wife and mother of his two youngest children then, they gave the world the Williams Sisters. Together, these parents drilled their two youngest daughters, Venus Ebony Starr and Serena Jameka, on cracked public courts. They did it with such passion and precision that they, revolutionised tennis, which before their entrance onto the scene was a white dominated game.
Their parents started coaching the girls when they were 3 and 4 years old respectively. Hours of routine practice and discipline ran into days, weeks and years of focus. The work this whole family must have put in and the sacrifices they must have made along the way cannot be underestimated. The obedience of the growing girls to co-operate with the gruelling timetable their parents drew up without rebelling is worthy of commendation. The fruition was that Venus turned a professional in 1994 and Serena followed closely, turning a professional in 1995.
Under normal circumstances, this is the stuff of TV movies. Despite all their human imperfections, Richard Williams and Oracene Price can both lay claim to a remarkable and unprecedented legacy. One of them had a dream and drew up a plan. The other one ensured that they formed a formidable tag team that together became unstoppable at implementing the plan – teamwork. These two came from the most unlikely and difficult circumstances to raise two daughters who not only dominated the game but they have also reinvented it.
Richard Williams and Oracene Price’s two youngest daughters have between them 30 grand slam singles titles and have played each other in the finals nine times. They also have 17 doubles titles playing together, along with 3 gold medals in Olympic doubles and more than a hundred million dollars in prize money between them plus endorsements that run into millions.
Richard William was once quoted to have said that Venus would be the number one player in the world and her little sister Serena would be even better. These words have turned out to be prophetic. Sadly Richard William reportedly suffered a stroke last year. In recent times the William sisters can claim full ownership of their success. Venus now 36 and Serena who is now 35, have held the aces in women’s tennis for more than a decade. This past weekend on Saturday the 28th January at the Australian Open, we all held our breaths worldwide once more; all of us united by the excitement of watching the two sisters come head to head again since their last grand slam final meet in 2009. Neither Sjögrens Syndrome, which causes body tissue dryness, muscle and joint pains could stop Venus nor multiple injuries, haematoma and pulmonary embolism could hold Serena from giving us the showdown of a lifetime. As we all congratulate Serena on her victory and Venus on her gracious loss this weekend, at the Australian Open Grand Slam, the fact becomes clear that only a Williams can lose to a Williams.
However, the tennis world can not but acknowledge that Richard Williams and Oracene Price, executed their 78-page plan to perfection and that both could still be rated the greatest coaches of all time – tennis and life coaches, living life strategically, not acknowledging the pressures.
People say every day… ‘Believe in your dream’… ‘Work towards your set goal’…’Have faith’ … ‘Never give up’. Well while some people say it half-heartedly we see a few who stick to those words, make plans and fulfil them. Two of such people are no doubt 74-year-old Richard Williams and 64 years old Oracene Price. Make your plan(s) today. Keep it/them (SMART): simple and specific, motivational and measurable, action oriented and achievable, realistic and result-oriented within timelines and tangible. If one fails to plan then one plans to fail.
Watch Serena Williams below. Apart from the inherent message from the legendary Maya Angelou she is seen interpreting in her own terms herein in this BBC sport clip, watch out for that dose of the palpable doggedness which abounds in her family.
“There’s no way I would have anything without her. She’s my inspiration. She’s the only reason I’m standing here today and the only reason that the Williams sisters exist. So thank you, Venus, for inspiring me to be the best player I could be and inspiring me to work hard. Every time you won this week, I felt like I’ve got to win, too.”
Serena Williams at Australian Open Court Ceremony on Saturday 28th Jan 2017
So, what do you think? Is it nature, nurture, both or possibly even neither? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section and remain motivated till we see you next week.
*Contributors to this week’s article have been Erhyo Obodo, Osagie Zogie-Odigie and Omo Agbonwanegbe*