Often times, teamwork is a foreign concept within the individualistic nature of the sport of tennis. Yet, the value of teamwork is undeniable, particularly when attempting to achieve a new goal or create a movement.
Margot Carter first learned the importance of teamwork when she left her home in Great Britain to pursue collegiate tennis at Tennessee Tech. For Carter, adjusting her mindset from individual to team-centered posed a unique challenge.
“There’s an aspect of teamwork in college, and it became so evident how essential it is to have a team that really gels,” explained Carter. “Once we got over our cultural issues, we were winning so much more. It is an amazingly powerful skill to learn that once you get a group of people together, you can create a team that really can make changes.”
After wrapping up a successful collegiate career, Carter opted to play professionally, an experience she would not trade for the world, despite never breaking into the top-tier tournaments. “I loved traveling and I loved meeting people. I enjoy the hustle of chasing a dream,” she recalled.
Upon completion of her time as a professional, Carter began coaching, a career she used to tell people she would never enter. Although she had obtained a master’s degree in biology, she opted to pursue coaching on a full-time basis for three main reasons – the challenge, love of the sport and the opportunity to brighten her students’ days.
“Every time you step on the tennis court, you have a challenge in front of you. Every person is different. Every single time I open my mouth to help someone’s forehand improve, I have to make it work for that person,” Cater explained. “Every single person presents a new challenge. It’s actually like a puzzle every time you step on the court, and you have to figure out how you’re going to solve it.”
Additionally, Carter feels a commitment to give back to the sport that has given her so much throughout her life. “If I can give back by helping someone else love the sport or getting someone else involved, maybe that person is going to fall in love with tennis and help fund a club in the future. By getting people to fall in love with our sport, we can make changes,” she said.
Finally, Carter has come to the realization that life is short, and tennis is a part of people’s lives that can bring joy to their day. “If I was a doctor or a lawyer, I would be fixing the problems that they don’t enjoy. They wouldn’t want to see me. I enjoy being a part of people’s day that they look forward to. The picture here is quite nice, I’m living an enjoyable lifestyle by being on a tennis court. At the end of the day, life is short and you should have fun,” she said.
Since beginning her coaching career seven years ago, Carter has created her own coaching business called Spherical Yellow, which is dedicated to helping tennis players achieve their goals and allowing them to have the best possible experience on a tennis court.
“My vision has evolved over time, but at the end of the day, it’s about spreading the love of the sport,” explained Carter. “I love the extra challenges that go with running your own business. I wanted to build my own brand that would hopefully be with me throughout my whole career.”
In an effort to connect with other likeminded tennis professionals, Carter opted to attend the first annual WTCA Conference NYC. Although at the time she did not have a complete understanding of the gender bias problem within the sport, she came away from the conference with an entirely new outlook.
“When you get a group of like-minded movers and shakers together, you come away with so much energy that you want to channel into all of your tennis programming. I came away with a much clearer understanding of the problem of gender bias,” said Carter. “I’m starting to understand this movement now and how I can make a change too. This is the same problem-solving aspect that I love about coaching. It’s the same as passing the love onto others within our sport, but on a bigger scale. We can reach a bigger audience together as a team, as a part of the WTCA.”
Looking for ways to reach these large-scale audiences, Carter signed up to participate as a ‘Fast Five’ speaker the 2018 WTCA Conference NYC, where she had five minutes to deliver an impactful message to the audience.
She opted to share her own experience with gender bias, recounting a story to the audience about how the young girls at her club noticed she was not asked to lead the warmup, a slight Carter herself did not even realize was gender bias at the time.
“Those little girls noticed that I hadn’t been asked to lead the warmup, and it hit me like a ton of bricks that they were watching and I hadn’t even noticed a problem,” Carter recalled. “I realized I needed to be more aware of these types of things. If I just let it carry on, it would continue for another generation.”
“After telling my story, I realized the audience was truly engaged. Therefore, instead of just changing one person’s life on the tennis court in a one-hour lesson, I just communicated with 300 people. That was an amazing feeling for me, and hopefully a big part of the broader movement,” she said.
As a result of her experiences, Carter urges other young female coaches to seek out a mentor. “Often times, we get into coaching without knowing why. There isn’t always an obvious pathway in the career of tennis coaching, so if you can find a mentor who has been through it and knows the opportunities out there, it’s really helpful for your growth and learning your own internal philosophies towards coaching the game,” she said.
Take Margot Carter’s tennis journey for example – with the help of a team of like-minded individuals, we can achieve so much more in the sport of tennis than we can on our own.