With Black History Month recently concluding in February, it’s a great time to highlight some of the great stories in the African American tennis community in the Jackson area. That community has a rich tradition of successful players, coaches, volunteers, and programs that are a vital part of the fabric of Jackson tennis.
One such story is that of Jimmie Coins, the incoming president of the Mississippi Tennis Association. Coins has been involved in multiple aspects of volunteerism over the last several years, and will now serve as the first black president of the Mississippi Tennis Association.
After first being introduced to the game as a 9th grader at Provine High School, Coins went on to play for Mississippi Tennis Hall of Famer Willie Shepard at Jackson State. Those experiences led to a lifelong love of the game that Coins later felt led to pass along to the next generation. After being influenced by other volunteers such as Bill Dilday, Fred Banks, Art Jones, and Cleon McKnight, Coins got into the service aspect of the sport. Those influences have led Coins down many paths, from officiating, to teaching the game, to starting and captaining multiple new USTA Adult League teams, to serving on committees and boards, to mentoring new young coaches to become PTR pros.
After starting “Coins Tennis Programs” in 2013, Coins utilized the former “DEUCE initiative” concept to get new adults involved in learning the sport. DEUCE stands for Disparity Elimination Using Care & Exercise, and was designed to use tennis as a platform to promote fitness and healthy lifestyles to minority communities. Hundreds of new adult players have been created throughout the program’s history, and many have gone on to become USTA Adult League players. Coins expanded his program in recent years by bringing the PTR ACE program to Mississippi. PTR, short for Professional Tennis Registry, is one of the two primary certifying bodies of tennis professionals in the US. PTR designed the “ACE” program to recruit and attract young minorities into the tennis teaching profession, and Coins has held five workshops, recruiting between 70-80 young minorities into becoming certified PTR coaches.
“I realized how important volunteering was after I worked my first tournament,” Coins said.
“I saw how tennis developed friendships, camaraderie, and promoted health and wellness so I kept becoming more involved. Then I started running clinics, and saw how fun it was to share my love of the game with new players and see the joy on their faces when they learned how to play the game and see the wellness benefit that it could give them.”
Coins also understands the impact that being a minority in a leadership role can have as well, and what that can mean for influencing the next generation of minority players and volunteers.
“If people see someone like me participating on a board or in a certain role, they think they can have the opportunity to do so as well,” said Coins. “When you have people involved that look like you, it’s more likely that you’ll gravitate towards becoming involved and thinking you belong in that setting. That was the key for me wanting to be more involved, it shows that everything is open to all of us.”
The increase in minority involvement from a perspective of players, volunteers, and programs available is something that Coins takes pride in seeing develop over the last several decades. He sees opportunities to enter the sport easier than they’ve ever been before due to the collective efforts of many.
“It makes me proud that anyone can walk up to any public facility and have the opportunity to play,” said Coins. “If you didn’t have the financial means, tennis wasn’t always as easy to get involved in. But now, with the resources and grants that the USTA and its various foundations have put into programming, anyone from any financial background is able to get a start in some type of low cost beginner program and they have more lesson options available.”
In his time as president, Coins looks to emphasize the development and mentoring of the younger generation, and make sure they continue to build on the progress.
“The MTA staff, those that are there now and many that are now retired but laid the foundation, have helped me learn a lot about how to organize programs to develop the next generation. And that’s one thing I want to focus on, is to get younger folks more involved, whether that be the opportunity to teach the game, play the game, or become involved on the committee and board level. They’re the leaders of the future.”