As a boy in my all-Black community every ambitious Black child had the motive instilled to "excel for your race." Such was understood without words, as when families were huddled around the radio in our home to listen to word pictures of the Joe Louis fights. "Do it for your race!" came up again during the first year of my orthopaedic residency training when feeling so beaten down by racism as to think of transferring to Canada. Quitting was not an option because I had vowed to never let anybody stop me from reaching my goal. Since there were no Black orthopaedic surgeons or any Black professionals available for consulting, I talked with Uncle Cecil, an insurance salesman. He said: "you can't transfer for if you do you will ruin it for other Black youth coming behind you." Recalling this accounts for my captivation with how Serena Williams exhibits the inner and outer Selfhood things it takes to be a champion.
Inner aspects are reflected in her urge to never give up and, upon being knocked to the floor and stomped on, she "digs down deep into her spirit" to get what it takes to jump back up and put up a good battle. No doubt, her motivation and determination came out of what she learned from her parents.
In the 2010 Australian Open Tennis Tournament, following competitions against 12 opponents (6 in singles; 6 in doubles), she faced Justine in the finals--a player who had beaten Serena 6 of 13 times. Heavy tape support was on Serena's ankles, left knee, and right thigh. Plus, she silently bore various aches and pains from old and new injuries. In every game she looked as if she could hardly keep going and opponents were hopping around, scoring at will, and brimming with confidence.
Justine went on a stunning run to win 20 of 22 points to even the set and take a 4 to 0 lead in the third set (incidentally, the day prior Serena's opponent had done something similar). Serena said she felt "everyone was pulling for Justine tonight." But suddenly Serena flipped on an inner Selfhood switch that put aside all that negative sentiment; that stopped her from being beaten down; and that caused her to take control of herself and take charge of the match. This switch came because she heard an insult from the stands-- "You can beat her, Justine, she's not that good"--a crack that stabbed her in the heart, as it would any prideful athlete. She said: "I looked at that guy and I was like, you don't know me."
When I heard that comment it reminded me of the day when four psychologists at the University of Michigan, after giving me a test to see which of 150 careers I was best suited for, told me that I scored the lowest on medicine (149th which was next to the bottom). I laughed out loud and said: "you all are fools. You cannot measure my heart and my determination!" They were stunned (because it is unlikely any Black person had talked to them that way) and remained silent as I walked out. Similarly, the heckler's cutting remark gave Serena the determination she needed and, as she said and did: "I think I won all the games after that because that 's total ly rude....That is a part of being me, like hearing things like that inspires me to work harder, do better. I feel like I have things to prove." These statements are very revealing--as in implying she knows who she is from being in charge and control of her own life. It is obvious she does not do what others decide she should do. By winning her fifth Australian Open title she broke what others called an even-numbered year "jinks" since 2003--giving her more Australian titles than any other woman in the Open Era-- meaning she has won 12 of 15 Grand Slam finals. The Serena lesson: we are all capable of doing much better than what our best has been up to this point.
Ref: Bailey, Self-Protection
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