High school tennis was when I truly began to experience adversity due to my skin color. My freshman year, I attended Warren Central High School, who was known for having an incredible football and basketball team. It was more socially acceptable for a black kid to ride the bench on the football or basketball team than it was for a black kid to pick up a racquet and try tennis, especially on the east side of Indianapolis. I was teased when I would bring my racquet to school, speak properly, make good grades, and wear form fitting clothing by the same people I identify with. And not to mention, the hostility towards African Americans that still exists today. Earl Sweatshirt said it best, “Too black for the white kids, and too white for the blacks”. I was an incredibly conflicted teenager.
At Warren Central, I had great success playing the number one singles position that year, but my greatest accomplishment was during my match against Cathedral High School. Every year, Cathedral would use playing Warren Central as an opportunity to play their junior varsity players in the varsity line-up due to the fact that Warren Central has never truly excelled in tennis. But this year, Mark Noe, coach of Cathedral, saw that I had beaten Noblesville’s state quarterfinalist in straight sets, and had a decent match with the soon to be state champion Nick Chappell. I’m assuming that Coach Noe didn’t want to take any chances against Warren this year, so he played his full varsity lineup with the idea that this would be a quick trip to the east side of Indianapolis. He matched me up against a well celebrated senior named Luke Bielawski who expected to beat me handily, but he was surprised to find out that this would not be the case. I ended up beating him with no skill set, just pure athleticism. I was just running around chasing the ball and putting it over the net with the topspin I had learned a couple of months before. At the moment, this just seemed like an underdog win against a successful school, but this win would set the tone for my education and my athletic career. During my match, Coach Noe watched my game and saw potential in me to become a great player, so he talked to my father and suggested that I apply to Cathedral. That summer I applied to Cathedral, took all the entrance exams, and began attending school in the fall. Adjusting to the difficult curriculum, making friends, and making the transition of once being the majority, to becoming a minority at my school were easy changes, but once I began playing tennis, I started experiencing difficulties.
I made my debut on the Cathedral men’s tennis team my sophomore year and little did I know, I would be sending shockwaves throughout the athletic department. Everyone was very friendly for the first few weeks, but as soon as challenge matches started and spots were in jeopardy, everyone began treating each other differently. My first match was against Travis Mandrell, who had played two singles the previous year, and expected to play one singles this year. After I beat him pretty handily, he impressively, threw his racquet over a full deck of courts into the woods that were behind our courts. My next challenge match was against Will Adams, who was a freshman at the time and a household name in junior tennis. I beat him handily, and due to his status as a freshman, there was not much outrage from anyone about him playing two singles that year, and the year after that. This would be the first time in Cathedral history that an African American male played number one singles for the school. My senior year was when everything started to change and became more controversial.