It would be a mistake to think that the rich material here is just for established and budding creative and business executives. I hope coaches, parents, and young athletes are inspired as well. An obvious benefit for our youth, as President Bill Clinton writes, is that active children are less likely to be obese. I, too, encourage parents to get their children involved in sports, not only for the physical benefits but also because it teaches them to set and reach goals, and gives them that sense of pride and self-worth that goes along with it. As the oft-repeated story goes, my father once heard tennis commentator Bud Collins say to Romanian tennis player Virginia Ruzici, the 978 French Open champion, "Forty thousand dollars isn't bad for four days' work." My dad thought it was a joke, but the next day he read it in the paper. He told my mother they were going to have two kids and get them into tennis. My dad learned how to play by looking at tennis magazines and watching videotapes, but for the most part he taught himself his own theories. My mother learned to hit very well, as did all of my sisters. Isha, the second oldest, could have been a great but for the intense back spasms she experienced. I was born in June 1980 and Serena followed fifteen months later. Because I was probably about three years old at the time, I don't remember the first time I picked up a racquet. Later, my father said that when he took us to the public courts to practice, I was the only kid who wanted to hit all of the balls in the shopping cart. I wasn't happy until I did it, and if I had to stop before the cart was empty, I'd start crying. On the last ball I always wanted to say, "Last one," and that was very special to me because it signified reaching a goal, though I most likely wouldn't have articulated it that way as a young girl. Whacking a basket of tennis balls and not stopping until I could say "last one" was probably my first experience with goal setting, and I haven't stopped setting goals since. (Incidentally, that was something I continued to say up until just a few years ago.)
Then there's the obvious. Sports show you how to work on a team, an invaluable trait if ever there is one. I couldn't run my business without my team, which includes my family. Sports also teaches humility— for every time you hit the game-winning hit, you just might strike out. And it keeps kids out of trouble, as Denzel Washington and others remind us: "It wears them out. I've heard that the most dangerous time for kids is after school between the hours of three and six, because the parents usually are still working. When you're young, you want to fit in somewhere. You're going to fit in with jocks, or you're going to fit in with the geeks, or you're going to fit in with the stars, the handsome people, the Goths, the drug heads. I just felt it was important for my children to stay busy"—and so he made sure they fit in with the athletes. Sports are, as Betsy Bernard says, an awesome enabler of success.