Hacks Newsletter – Week 47 – Original 9 and Abdul Sillah Trailblazer Hacks


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Trailblazer Hacks

On September 23, 1970, at the Houston Racquet Club, a group of women tennis players who were later dubbed “the Original 9” signed $1 contracts with promoter Gladys Heldman to join the newly established Virginia Slims Series. The Original 9, who were protesting against the inequity in prize money awarded in the men’s and women’s game, include Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville Reid, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Julie Heldman. 
Women’s professional tennis as we know it today was launched at that moment with the inaugural $7,500 Virginia Slims of Houston event which became the groundbreaker for all others. It led to the start of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), founded by Billie Jean King in 1973. The WTA is now the global leader in women’s professional sports with more than 1,650 players, representing 84 nations, competing for a record $180 million in prize money.
To pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of this historic moment, WTA Charities and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative hosted a private virtual event that included a conversation with the Original 9 to benefit COVID-19 relief efforts for women, with a focus on women of color.
In honor of the Original 9 in the same week 50 years ago that they launched professional women’s tennis, I interviewed Abdul Sillah, my longtime coach, dear friend, and the athletic trainer to USTA greats like Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens, and Naomi Osaka.

50 Years Later: Q&A with Abdul Sillah, Trainer to USTA Greats

AJR: Abdul, What is the one consistent trait that you always see in the professional women tennis stars that you have coached that made you think, “This person can dominate the field?” 

AS: For me, the common denominator traits in the women I’ve had the opportunity of guiding this far are good stubbornness and humility.  Good stubbornness will give them the self-believe and with that, they’ll be able to consistently impose their will on any that dare to stand between them and their mission. Humility makes them teachable.

AJR: What do you do to coach your athletes to perform at their highest level when under the greatest competitive pressure?

AS: “A cool mind is undefeatable. Stay calm and let the emotions pass.” I develop mental toughness and emotional control. If you have these two components you have power over your opponents.

AJR: We often have talked about that by training the body, you are really training people’s minds. What do you think is the greatest challenge/opportunity for high-performing people in “training the mind?
AS: As a teacher or a mentor for me I feel is finding the right key and then making sure turn it in the right direction to unlock their minds.

You can find Abdul’s gratis 5-minute workout for Hacks readers via this link.  You can listen to his most recent interview with the Australian press here.


Watch 9/30 Episode

WHAT: Wine and Financial Markets – Episode 14
WHEN: September 30, 4 pm CST/5 pm EST

WHERE: Google Meet (Hangouts)
Join Hangouts Meet: https://meet.google.com/jxg-aovh-zoi
Join By Phone: 1-929-336-0216,,742961377

Missed the previous episode of #talkandtaste? 

Watch 9/16 Episode

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