We graciously had the opportunity to speak with Darren Fieulleteau, a third-generation tennis player whose son, Fela, takes lessons at the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program. Keep reading for Fieulleteau's recollection of his generational history with tennis, the diversity in tennis over the years, and his advice for coaching your children.
How long have you been playing tennis? How did you get started?
I've been playing tennis since I was 10. I got started through my father and grandfather. I'm currently age 55.
In terms of diversity, how do you think tennis has changed from when you started playing to now?
In the northeast, tennis is definitely more diverse. That's probably because this area is so diverse with many immigrants from all over the world. My son's high school team has 4 South Asians, 2 Chinese, 1 Russian. Most I suspect are second generation immigrants no less. When I was a youth you only saw white people at tournaments. It's so different now.
I understand you’re a 3rd generation tennis player. When you were growing up, was tennis a family activity that you all participated in together?
I traveled with my grandfather and father to all the ATA (American Tennis Association) tournaments every summer. My mother didn't play much tennis. We would start in Richmond, Virginia in June and went nearly every weekend until the ATA nationals in August. I have great memory of those road trips and tournaments. The ATA doesn't have the same circuit of events anymore but still holds the nationals every year, and my son, Fela, has been to 3 of them. I'm still close with many of my friends I grew up competing against.
Nowadays, do you play with Fela?
I still play occasionally with Fela. He has become so good it's hard to keep up. If we are rallying I'm ok. If we play points I just can't get to the ball anymore! I still love it!!
What advice would you give to fathers who play tennis, like yourself, who might want to coach their children?
The best advice I can give if you have a tournament-competitive child: let the process play out. You can't force it. A parent can want the sport for them. Enjoy the ride. It's a lot of fun!