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Mekaya Gittens: Breaking Down Barriers to Build Inclusive Tennis Communities

Mekaya Gittens, a 33-year-old tennis coach, was recently named to the inaugural Tennis Blacklist in recognition of her contributions to the field of tennis, particularly her efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the sport.

Born and raised in Slough, England, Mekaya’s love of tennis began with her father. Her father was a community activist and Mekaya saw in him the importance of having a safe space that could engage the wider community.

In 2009, Mekaya’s father passed away and in 2010, the local indoor tennis center in Slough closed, both of which had a big impact on her. She realized that she wanted to become a tennis instructor and provide a safe space for others to enjoy the sport and be inspired by it.

Mekaya currently coaches at Thames Valley Tennis and Slough Tennis Club, where she works to create an inclusive and diverse space for all socio-economic groups and to bring tennis to the local community.

In honor of Black History Month, Mekaya shared her own story and her strong desire to bring the same opportunities to others.

She said, “I am proud to share the stage with great coaches like Miles, Zack, Shola and Arum. I admire their accomplishments. For me, receiving this recognition is also a great encouragement for the work I have done in this area.”

“Beyond coaching, these categories have really opened my eyes to the entire field of tennis, and I’m thrilled to see so many people from different fields telling their stories on behalf of the black community.”

She continued, “Sometimes it’s good and important to stop and take a minute to recognize what’s going on. We must recognize that the individuals nominated have worked hard to get to where they are today. They didn’t always have the same opportunities to grow.”

“However, the Tennis Blacklist is succeeding in breaking down barriers, providing them with a showcase and giving them the confidence to continue the great work they’ve done while encouraging others in the community to follow in their footsteps.”

Mekaya was recently selected for the Catalyst14 Mentoring and Coaching Program, and the LTA Level 3 Certified Coach has gone above and beyond expectations in her coaching duties, establishing a partnership between Slough Tennis Club and Thames Valley Tennis to increase participation.

“Slough Tennis Club is like a traditional club where we are actively involved in tournaments and play in tennis leagues,” Mekaya said.

Mekaya Gittens: Breaking Down Barriers to Build Inclusive Tennis Communities

“Thames Valley Tennis, on the other hand, is almost like home-based coaching designed to increase participation among local residents. We proactively reach out to the community and intentionally avoid playing on the club courts that are usually our daily coaching venues.”

“We also do occasional projects with local councils. For example, we ran a project in a community called Chalvey Can where, in partnership with Sport England and the local council, we basically provided pop-up nets with rackets and balls to engage families.”

“It’s just to give people a chance to try tennis and to get the message across that you don’t need a racket, you just need to turn up. You don’t need to go anywhere, you just need to go around the corner.”

“Historically, these programs have led to more coaching programs being opened at fixed venues and more players wanting to play competitively. the LTA SERVES program has also been very helpful to us in terms of increasing participation and engaging people in our local community. nari opened a SERVES program on the other side of town and did a great job, so people around town have a real interest in playing tennis, which is fantastic.”

Mekaya herself is a role model for many. Her passion for helping others stems from her thoughts of her father, and she continues to work tirelessly to fulfill her mentor’s vision.

She says, “My father passed away in 2009. That was a turning point in my life. Then, in 2010, the local indoor tennis center closed, so I felt like I lost a lot. It was also a time when I was thinking about going to college, so I spent about 12 months finding myself and sorting things out.”

“I had already invested a lot of time in tennis and by watching my father I realized that coaching was the perfect job for me.”

“My father was a true community activist and I saw the importance of having a safe space that could engage the wider community. I also recognized that having an activist who could empathize with people and bring them together was key.”

Mekaya and her fellow coaches continue to break down existing barriers through their efforts, which has had a significant impact on Slough Tennis Club’s overall retention rates.

In fact, the club’s participation and retention rates have soared to all-time highs, reaching levels not seen in more than 10 years since the closure of Slough’s local indoor tennis center.

Mekaya said, “There was a period of time after the center closed where we had no junior league players. It wasn’t until recently that.

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