Coco Gauff on using her platform to educate people and finally returning to action
Coco Gauff has been at the forefront of anti-racism campaigns the past few months while she also took the time off to continue her development, but now she is ready to step back on court for competitive tennis.
When the sport went on a break at the beginning of March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gauff probably didn’t imagine that she would become one of the most vocal voices in tennis when it comes to social justice issues.
The teen sensation hit the headlines when she made a speech during a Black Lives Matter rally protesting against the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black American who died in police custody in Minneapolis.
— Coco Gauff (@CocoGauff) June 4, 2020
Gauff explained why it would have been wrong for her to stay silent over social injustices in the United States.
“I think I learned a lot about myself over this break,” the 16-year-old said.
“When I went to protest in the peaceful protest, I wasn’t initially supposed to do a speech. They asked me like maybe two minutes before to do so.
“I would say why I felt calm is because of my grandmother. She’s taught me a lot over the years. My grandmother was the first to integrate Seacrest High School in Florida. I learned a lot about her stories over the years, so I felt like that kind of prepared me for that moment.
“I also felt responsible since I do have a big platform, that it would be wrong of me to stay silent when this is obviously an issue going on. So I felt the need to use my platform to just spread awareness about the topic and educate people about it.
“I definitely think George Floyd, at least for the world, opened a lot of people’s eyes. But I feel like this topic has been close to me ever since I was a kid, just because my parents have always talked to me about it. And I think that I was able to finally be able to put it into words because obviously talking about issues like this, you have to be very educated on the topic to make sure you don’t say the wrong words.
“I felt like that was when I was ready to actually speak out about it because I actually knew a lot about it.”
After five months on the sidelines due to Covid-19, Gauff will finally return to action at the Top Seed Open in Lexington this week and she can’t wait.
“To be honest, even though it was my longest break at home in general, we look at how spread out my tournaments are even back to juniors, I’ve always taken like two to three months [off]. So I think to be honest it didn’t feel that much different,” she said.
She added: “For me, obviously, I miss competing and I miss playing, but I think it was a good little break for me because I was able to train.
“I consider myself still in the development stage. So having those months off to work on certain stuff definitely helps. Plus, I got to be home and be with my brothers and my family and that’s probably the longest I’ve been home in a long time.
“But I’m excited to get back competing. I definitely miss being on the court.”
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