"You've got to understand that you're dealing with a image of a 14-year-old child. And this child gonna be out there playing when your old a** and me gonna be in the grave.""
A vintage video of Venus Williams at 14 shows just how much she and Serena’s dad, Richard Williams, had their back when it came to protecting their self-confidence about their ability to play great tennis.
When Venus and Serena Williams were just teenagers, they were on the cusp of taking over the world and cementing themselves as two of the best tennis players of all time. But apparently, according to one interviewer at the time, that self-assured confidence was just too much to believe, an unearthed video reveals. The video came up, actually, because people were talking about perceived the lack of protection that Britney Spears’s parents didn’t give her (and arguably still have not) when she was around that age, fielding international attention on her way to becoming one of the most iconic pop stars of the 2000s. The Venus video strikes a different chord.In the interview, a 14-year-old Venus, who had just gone pro at age 14 in 1994, is asked about her confidence as a player. While her role as the dominant player of the early 2000s (she would be ranked as the best player in the world in 2002) was just around the corner, Venus was still clearly super confident about her abilities. That type of self-confidence is rare in a teenage girl, and Richard Williams seemed to be determined to protect that.The interviewer asked Venus if she knew she could beat an opponent and Venus responded that she did, saying, “I’m very confident.” “You say it so easily,” he responded. “Why?”“Cause I believe it,” Venus said. It’s at this moment that Richard steps in and plays the role of protective dad (and tennis coach, of course.)“What she said… she said it with so much confidence the first time. But you keep going on and on.”The interviewer tries to stop Richard from interrupting the interview, but Richard is having none of it.“You’ve got to understand that you’re dealing with a image of a 14-year-old child. And this child gonna be out there playing when your old ass and me gonna be in the grave. When she say something, we done told you what’s happening. You’re dealing with a little Black kid, and let her be a kid,” Williams says. “She done answered it with a lot of confidence. Leave that alone!” Richard says, and the clip concludes.
It’s so important to see a dad stand up for his Black daughter who was entering an extremely historically white professional sport. And he was right. She was absolutely still a kid at the time. What’s even better is to see the smile on Venus’s face as her dad defends her. She smiles with the confidence of a kid who knows her dad will be there to support her. Her confidence and self-esteem were protected as she entered the national and international stage.
And, anyway, Richard was right. Venus Williams is, alongside sister Serena, one of the best and most accomplished tennis players to ever play the game — she became the first African-American woman to rank #1 in singles in the Open Era, she’s won 7 Grand Slam titles, has reached 16 Grand Slam finals, has won 5 Wimbledon singles titles, has won 14 Grand Slam Women’s doubles titles, making a total of 32 Grand Slam titles across all types of tennis. She’s won 4 Olympic gold medals and a silver medal. The accomplishments of her career are legitimately too numerous to list out here, but suffice it to say this: everyone remembers Venus Williams. Her dad helped her cultivate the confidence (and skill) in order to get there.
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