Sloane Stephens: On Supporting South Florida’s Underserved Kids, Tennis, Wellness & More
Sloane Stephens is a powerhouse. The celebrated 28-year-old American professional tennis player, who turned pro in 2009, ranked No. 3 in the world after Wimbledon in 2018; was the 2017 US Open champion; and has won a total of six WTA singles titles. Impressive, right?
When Sloane is not on the courts, she is pursuing her other passions. In 2013, Sloane founded the Sloane Stephens Foundation “with a primary goal of enhancing the quality of life for youth, through exposure to tennis as a basis for life-long learning, and healthy lifestyle choices.” The notable foundation supports programs in California and South Florida (Sloane was born in Plantation, Florida). Miami Living Magazine connected with the tennis star, who talked more on her foundation’s work, their partnership with SAP, tennis, and wellness.
By Markin Abras. Images courtesy of Women's Tennis Association (WTA)
How did the Sloane Stephens Foundation come about?
Sloane Stephens: I love kids, like going out to courts and helping coaching them. Becoming a professional tennis player has given me so many opportunities in my life, and I always knew I wanted to find a way to give back. Education is really important in my family, so I wanted to make sure that every child who wants to play tennis can learn, and every child knows that they matter and can succeed in school.
There are so many disadvantaged youth across America, how did you decide on serving underprivileged communities in Broward and Miami Dade County with the Sloane Stephens Foundation?
SS: Because I grew up playing tennis there. There were so many kids that were good players, great athletes but unfortunately, their parents just couldn’t afford for them to play. They didn’t have enough money for racquets, for lessons, to go to clinics or anything like that.
Seeing people that I had grown up with playing tennis that either quit or stopped playing tennis because they didn’t have the financial means or couldn’t afford to travel, became a driving force, especially as I got older. I felt like this is so unfair because those kids could have gone to college, got a scholarship or benefited in other ways.
I just felt like it was really important to give underserved kids opportunities to play and see their potential all the way through. And that’s something very small in the grand scheme of things that I could do to help give back to my sport. So it’s been super important for me to be able to give those opportunities back. And so far, so good.
What would you say your biggest challenge and biggest accomplishment from the foundation has been?
SS: My biggest challenge for myself is that I don’t speak Spanish, so that’s terrible! I’m working on that! A lot of our kids are Hispanic or come from a Hispanic background, and I’m always like, “Man...I wish I could yell at them in Spanish, but I don’t!”
Virtually everyone in Miami speaks Spanish, so you are in the perfect place to practice!
SS: Yeah, all right, I’m getting some progress. I’m getting to practice and speak some Spanish. Fortunately, a lot of our staff speaks Spanish, so that’s been really nice.
And second, our biggest accomplishment is forming three high school tennis teams for the three high schools and for Compton Unified we got a full team playing there. Also, redoing the courts at Centennial High School has been amazing because it brought a lot more kids to the teams. It got a lot of players excited to play.
My foundation also supports higher education. Once you graduate from Compton Unified High School, you get two free years of college at Compton College. So getting kids to graduate from high school and then enroll them into a 2-year college program is the coolest thing for us!
The Sloane Stephens Foundation recently partnered with SAP. Can you elaborate on this partnership and what are some of the benefits it brings to the foundation?
SS: Yeah, definitely. Obviously partnering with a huge company like SAP with the foundation brought us unity because our vision aligns. We are all about uplifting communities’ improvement through tennis and education. It is an awesome partnership and I’m looking forward to all the things we can do together. SAP believes in our mission and it is really nice to have someone or a brand or company who believes in what it is that you’re doing.
How did your South Florida upbringing and coaches support your achievements on the court?
SS: I still talk and have a relationship with every coach that I’ve ever had in South Florida, including coaches like Nick Saviano and Jesse Smatt. You know if I had a kid, or one of those high performance kids, that needed to work on a forehand, server or whatever, I would 100% not hesitate to recommend one of my previous coaches who helped me with footwork or whatever. They’re like the best thing that ever happened to me. Obviously, I’m where I am today because of the coaches that I’ve worked with.
It looks like collaboration is a large part of your success on and off the court.
SS: Absolutely! There is no “I” in team and without collaboration with others where people are working together for a common goal, there is no team, there’s no organization, and there’s no group of people that can work towards something alone. So I definitely think that collaboration and collaborating is super important especially with the foundation because we have to put all of our resources together. As a nonprofit organization, everything we do is either a partnership or some type of collaboration. Like I said, the biggest thing is that there is no “I” in team.
And how are you feeling about your tennis, your body, your mind during this crazy year?
SS: My tennis is okay, it’s getting back to where it should be. My body is good. My mind, I’m working on it. I think through this pandemic and the beginning part of this year, I’ve been through a lot. And I’m definitely not afraid to say that I’ve talked to my therapist multiple times a week to get through this. Working on yourself is really important. Keeping your mind fresh, sharp and ready to go is essential. I’m trying to keep myself above the water in a very crazy ever-changing world; I’m definitely not the only one.
What would fans be surprised to find out about you?
SS: Oh, that I own a food truck in South Florida!
Wow! That is something I would not expect to hear from a tennis player!
SS: Yeah, it’s called Gold Soul Barbecue (https://goldsoulbbq.com)! It is super good! The BBQ ribs and cornbread are quite popular.
Career titles: 6
Highest ranking: No. 3 (16 July 2018)
Current ranking: No. 49 (22 March 2021)
Grand Slam Best Singles Results
US Open Winner (2017)
French Open Final (2018)
Australian Open Semi Finals (2013)
Wimbledon Quarter Final (2013)
Connect with Sloane