In honor of Black History Month, USTA New England is spotlighting African-American leaders who have had an impact on the game of tennis. In this feature, we are proud to highlight Troy Crichlow, a member of the New England tennis community since he was a young player. Troy’s passion for junior tennis is contagious, and it shows in the work he does with kids of all abilities, from beginner players and high schoolers to high-performance juniors in and outside of New England. Troy was the 2016 recipient of USTA New England’s William Freedman Award for his outstanding contribution to junior development.

Q & A with Troy Crichlow:

What are your roles in the tennis community and why are they so important to you?
I’ve been a part of the New England tennis community pretty much since birth as a player, coach, Director and other tennis related positions. I currently coach in the Boston area primarily working with high-performance juniors in and outside of our section. I also coach the Milton Academy girls’ varsity team and coach players of all ages and ability levels. I run USTA tournaments and currently serve on multiple boards. I am chair of the USTA New England National Selection Committee, serve on the Diversity & Inclusion board and am also the USTA Eastern Massachusetts Committee. I am also a board member for the NETA section of the ATA (American Tennis Association), the oldest African-American sports organization in the United States, and also serve on the board of A. Bright Future inc. (ABF mission: Through financial aid and mentorship, A. Bright Future (ABF) is dedicated to supporting young men of color in navigating the world of junior tennis and beyond). My role in the tennis community is important to me because I have the ability to grow the game and positively impact lives on and off the court. The life lessons and joy that tennis has brought to me are too scared to not be spread to others.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?
There have always been challenges to being an African American in the tennis community because there are so few of us. It’s never easy as a young person to feel like you belong when there aren’t many people that look like you in the field. I was lucky to grow up at Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center. At Sportsmen’s I saw a lot of people with my background loving the game, having success in the game, and making a career to provide for their families through the game of tennis. Seeing Jim and Gloria Smith own a tennis club in Boston and impact so many lives in a positive way inspired me to do more in tennis then just be a great player. I have a lot of pride in being part of the continuance of their excellence and will hopefully inspire other young African Americans to do the same.

Was there a player/role model you specifically looked up to who helped guide you to where you are today?
I had many role models growing up, starting with my two older brothers Scott and Shaun Crichlow, along with all of the players that came before me at Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center. There are the obvious ones like Arthur Ashe, Zina Garrison, Lori McNeal, Rodney Harmon, Martin Blackman and other pros that came to visit us at Sportsmen’s often. The more important ones were the people I saw every day as a kid. They worked hard, achieved great results and looked at me as a younger family member. Charles Hardison, Timi Solomon, Steve Perry, and many other Sportsmen’s greats were all great players to look up to that I could talk to every day. I had great coaches like Morrell Harmon, Sidney Cooper, Duey Evans, and Nigel Griffith to name a few. Jim Smith was the mythical figure that inspired us all.

What can we do to get more African Americans, both youths and adults, playing tennis?
I think the impact of Venus and Serena Williams is quite evident with the rise of many young black females dominating on the junior level from all parts of the globe. They’ve inspired young black women like Naomi Osaka, Sloane Stephens, and Cori Gauff. Francis Tiafoe has a great chance to spark an influx of young black men to start playing this great game and take a meaningful interest. Another way is to have more people of color in director roles and leadership positions in the tennis industry. When kids see that they can do something outside of playing to further their purpose in life, they will be more likely to stay in the game after there playing days. Seeing people of color as leaders will inspire young players to stay in the game and make an impact even if their skills don’t lead them to a professional tennis career. I can’t say that I would still be in tennis without seeing the examples of great men of color impacting lives as tennis leaders and club owners.

In your opinion, what has been your most meaningful contribution to the tennis community thus far?
The most meaningful contribution for me has and always will be impacting kids and teaching them how to be the best version of themselves through the game of tennis. Teaching a kid how to hit a great forehand is one thing, but teaching them how to handle losing, or how to stay motivated when the chips are down are the lessons they can carry with them throughout all aspects of their life. Watching kids react to opening a college acceptance letter made possible by their hard work and commitment on and off of the court is priceless and never gets old. Being a part of that process means the world to me. I feel lucky and blessed to have the opportunity to do what I do each day. The game of tennis and the people that I had the opportunity to be around from a young age have allowed me to do this.

Original Article: | February 26, 2019