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Ajay Mahenthiran, Essay Winner

Congratulations, AJAY MAHENTHIRAN!

WINNER ICTP BILLIE JEAN ESSAY CONTEST, 14-18 YEARS OLD

ESSAY QUESTION

“After watching the virtual fireside chat with Billie Jean King, what motivational messages did Ms. King share with the audience that will help make you a better tennis player and a better person?

WINNING ENTRY

Inspiration: Life Lessons From Billie Jean King’s Virtual Fireside Chat

Ms. King is an influential figure for the sport of tennis. Her contributions to the sport are immeasurable. Her will and determination for encouraging women in the sport of tennis are even more commendable. During her virtual fireside chat, Ms. King shared powerful messages that are also important life lessons for all who were listening. At the conclusion of her speech, Ms. King conveyed three important messages: 1) relationships are everything, 2) keep learning how to learn, and 3) be a problem solver. 

I admire King for her ability to use her notoriety in tennis as a platform to help champion equality for women in the sport. Her actions connects to the first message of “relationships are everything.” She was able to form bonds with her peers on the tour to promote awareness for women in the sport of tennis. I must apply the same message to my life as well because I need to work to improve my relationships every day and build important relationships with peers that will help me in the future. I need to work to persevere in my relationships even when they have been strained, such as my relationship with my teammates during my high school season. I feel that as a top player on the tennis team that I have never cared enough for my other teammates or how they were progressing. I can apply Ms. King’s message to my life in this regard to become a better person off the court and become more involved with my teammates by working to strengthen the relationships I have with each of them and to help them to thrive on the court and off the court. 

Asides from Ms. King’s ideas which will help me to improve my relationships, I also understood Ms. King’s message on the importance of not putting pressure on myself when I am young. I believe these ideas apply to Ms. King’s second message, “keep learning how to learn.” King discusses how the most important thing to do now as juniors is to develop our game. She explains how it is important to always be working on your game and to have goals for your tennis. The message she highlights is very applicable to me as I often get caught up in the extremely competitive environment of junior tennis and I forget that tennis is not about winning and losing but rather about getting better every day. I must first focus on how my game is progressing and not compare myself with others but rather focus on monitoring my progress and making sure that my game is constantly improving each day. This concept was an important life lesson that Ms. King taught me through her fireside chat. 

In addition to her message of always trying to develop and become a better person, Ms. King conveyed an important life lesson through the idea of delayed gratification. The message she shared connects with her third message, “be a problem solver.” She explained how she wanted to get a tennis racquet but her parents refused to buy one for her. Instead, her dad told her to figure out how to get a racquet, and thus she got jobs from her neighbors to ultimately make the money to buy a tennis racquet. The notion of working hard and achieving what you want in life is very powerful, as it made me realize I am not doing enough to work at what I want. If I have to ask my parents for new grips or new racquets, I usually get it. However, I need to embrace the idea Ms. King conveys about delayed gratification and I should work hard to attain the items that I desire and not have them always be handed to me. I believe I could also apply Ms. Kong’s message to my life by using the money that I make from teaching to help our community by contributing the money to help the Indianapolis Community Tennis Program. 

King’s fireside chat is one that I will always remember. The messages she shared were very valuable and can help encourage people who are struggling with the sport of tennis. The long-lasting message she leaves me with is the idea that champions adapt, not only in tennis but also off the court. Any situation I am faced with in life, such as how Ms. King had to get used to playing on different tennis surfaces, I should always try to adapt and make myself comfortable even in those unfamiliar surroundings.