As part of our ongoing Pro-Women initiative, USTA Florida pays tribute to all women whose passion and presence continue to foster the growth and success of tennis – at all levels. We are committed to supporting, lifting and attracting diverse women to all aspects of the Florida tennis industry.
The tennis director at Coral Reef Park Tennis Center, Kara Borromeo’s earliest tennis memory was that her mother took her to the US Open. Borromeo credits her mother with shaping her life and encouraging her to achieve any goal she has set for herself. She instills the same values in the students she teaches in tennis. Borromeo, who was recently named USPTA Coach of the Year, believes that tennis at its core should be fun! She was born in the Philippines and understands the value of having different coaches as role models for future generations of tennis players.
Tell us about the programs you run at Coral Reef Park Tennis Center and your overall coaching philosophy.
My staff and I run programs for age 5 adults. We teach using all the different colored balls, red, orange, green dot and plain (yellow). Myself and my employees’ philosophy for teaching is first and foremost to have fun! Learn the right technique, learn the right shape, but still learn to have fun in this sport that also teaches you about life. When we feel that a student reaches a certain level where they can score, play sets, games, we encourage them to start competing. We go Junior Team Tennis (JTT), or you can go individual tennis. We let the junior make that choice himself. Once they have decided, I let them know when they start competing that they are playing for themselves – not for mom, not for dad, not for me – they are playing for themselves. They need to realize that it’s still about having fun!
Your mother played a really big role in your life. Can you talk about the influence she had on you growing up and the values she instilled in you that have shaped your own path in life the most?
My mom was a tough cookie. Very strict. I did not understand it then, but I do now. Very disciplinary, but she always wanted the best for me. She gave me the “never give up” that she instilled in me. She instilled in me to be very disciplined in everything I chose to do. But also let me know that at a young age, striving for what I wanted in life, and as long as I believed in myself, I could succeed.
There are not many women who serve as directors of tennis or even head teachers, and even fewer of these women have different backgrounds. Can you tell us about what drives you to do this work and why do you think it is important to encourage more women with different backgrounds to serve in these director roles in both public parks and private clubs?
I do not believe that my gender and ethnicity had anything to do with choosing my career, it was my passion for tennis. I love tennis. As for encouraging other women and women with different backgrounds, I think it goes beyond tennis. I believe we need to encourage women to pursue their dreams and passions, even in careers that for the most part are and have historically been male dominated.
It is quite uncommon for men or women to have female coaches when they are growing up. What impact do you think it has on the children you teach to have a strong, successful woman like you as a coach from a young age, and how does it shape their view of women when they go out into the world?
I think you’ll have to ask my juniors what they think of having me as their coach. But if I know my juniors, I think their first response would be like, “That’s cool!” If you were to ask my parents, however, I have quite a few parents – and more fathers than mothers – who ask me to teach their young daughters from different backgrounds because they see me as a role model for their young daughters.
Why do you think there are no more female coaches and coaches, just generally with different backgrounds in tennis today?
Change is coming slowly, and historically, tennis, like many other elite sports, has major barriers to entry. But slowly things are changing and I hope that many more different background coaches and college players will become coaches over the next few years. If this happens then think of the big numbers! If you think about the numbers, we would have a bigger pool of talented players to grab, and tennis would benefit from that!
What do you think tennis in general needs to do differently to attract and retain more of the different coaches?
I have some ideas, but I want to say right now, I do not know. But I see myself in a unique position and I am willing to work with USTA to attract and retain different coaches.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in coaching but who may be reluctant to take on this position at a higher level as head of professional education or tennis director?
I would tell them to be very mentally strong. They must have hard skin. You need to have a good support system, a large group of people around you. Eventually, you need to believe in yourself and have confidence. Exactly what my mother taught me.
For more inspirational features about women in Florida tennis, click here and be sure to follow @ustaflorida on social media.