By Osita Chidoka
I watched Serena Williams end her career on the court last night as she lost to 29 years old Ajla Tomljanovic. It was obvious she lost to youth. As I watched her play a beautiful game, I saw her struggle. I noticed the effort and the evolution of Serena.
Serena is an amazing woman. According to ESPN, “In 2022, Williams walks away from the game with 858 tour victories, 73 singles titles, an Olympic gold medal, and 319 weeks at No. 1. Together with Venus, she won 14 major double titles and three Olympic golds. Williams’ 23-major mark remains the most by a player, man or woman, in the Open Era.”
Serena and her sister Venus redefined tennis, inspired a generation of black women in sports, and renewed the idea of sports as a career for women. She overcame injuries, life-threatening health challenges, difficult childbirth, and racial slurs to emerge a defining icon of an Era. The world will miss the Williams sisters on the court.
A few lessons crossed my mind watching her yesterday. First, we will all grow older. Use your youth wisely; once you cross your teenage age, opportunities begin to narrow in many fields. Sow the seeds of greatness while the sun shines. Focus on honing your skills and utilize your youth wisely. Like Serena, the game must end someday.
Second, single-minded dedication made all the difference for Serena. From early coaching from her father to playing finals pregnant and returning to the court months after difficult childbirth, she focused and turned up on all occasions. No excuses. Focus and commit.
Third, defeat setbacks are not final nor destiny. After painful losses, she came back, determined and focused. 2018 and 2019, she lost two finals, and yet she kept at it. Don’t give up. On the path to success are many failures, Serena lost and won.
Fourth, you can’t win it all. Serena wanted to beat the record of Magareth Courts of the most grand slams of 24 titles. She was stuck at 23, an impressive record. Always reach for the sky; not making it will not define you.
As the match ended yesterday, I asked myself, “What is it that I need to recommit to with dedication and focus?” We may not win the grand slam, but we can set our own goals and achieve it. Like Serena, I am ready to ‘evolve.’
You, especially my young friends, don’t waste your youth; it will speed past, and you will wonder what happened. Focus, commit, grow, and evolve. You owe it to yourself.
We are personally responsible for our future.