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Tennis star serves up Southside inspiration

Tennis star Venus Williams was the 2012-13 Polly Wheeler ‘44 Leader in Residence speaker at Chatham Hall on Tuesday night.  

Excitement filled Van Voorhis Lecture Hall as everyone awaited the arrival of the Olympic tennis professional.

Sophomore Chatham Hall student, Jingi Hairston of Danville, introduced Williams to an enthusiastic crowd. 

When asked how she felt about her daughter introducing the four time Olympic gold medalist, Hairston’s mom said, “This was an appropriate choice since she was the number one student on the Chatham Hall tennis team last year, and Venus Williams is her idol.”

As Williams spoke to the crowd of 400 plus students, faculty, parents and visitors, her focus was directed to the youth at the school instructing them to “follow the three D’s.”

The superstar tennis player, who has 20 career titles to her name, said the three D’s stand for “discipline, determination and dedication.”  

She smiled as she informed students to “set goals for themselves even if you do not reach them.”  

“You can either fail to plan, or you can plan to fail.  My parents stressed to us to write our goals down,” she continued.  

“If you don’t reach your goals, that is OK.  You have to re-evaluate what you have done and reset them.  Set goals you can achieve, but at the same time have goals that are challenging.

“Billie Jean King is one of my favorite role models,” added Williams.  “She had to overcome many challenges.”

Williams’ dedication and passion for the sport of tennis was evident as she told those in attendance, “Learning how to win takes practice, but you also have to learn how to lose.  Both attributes build leadership skills.”

The five-time Wimbleton tennis champion told listeners, “Don’t let things stand in your way.  Leadership is action in motion.  Leaders always try something different.”

As a businesswoman who has started her own clothing line, “EleVen,” Williams concluded her speaking engagement saying, “Think what you can accomplish. Be positive and believe in yourself.”

When asked by an audience member how she felt when playing a tennis match with her sister, tennis champion Serena Williams, the international tennis champion looked into the crowd and concluded, “May the best Williams win.”  

The crowd erupted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.