Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Lunch with Serena Williams—Three Takeaways

Today, I had lunch with Serena Williams. 

Thanks to the University of San Francisco' Silk Series, I logged in to webinar that featured a conversation between Associate Vice President for Development Jennifer Azzi and the "tennis superstar, entrepreneur, activist, philanthropist, and venture capitalist: Serena Williams." Like a typical lunch day, the conversation lasted but a half hour. And here are but three take aways from the lunch bunch.

Her sense of humor.
People know a lot about Serena. This should not be surprising because she is everywhere. From the winner's circle of every Grand Slam, to the Olympic Games to Meghan and Harry's wedding, Serena is a household name and a known personality. What we see has been further revealed in a number of documentaries like the HBO series "Being Serena" or her profile as Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year. She is easy to describe—ambitious, focused, legendary and strong. Serena is smart, passionate and fierce. She's also really funny.

I don't know that I have ever heard the media or fans talk about just how funny she is. Perhaps it is because she's not trying to be....but she is. 

Serena is articulate and delivers her opinions and insights comfortably. She imparts her color commentary without much affect. Her dead pan humor is good, so good that people might miss it. She has a fantastic eye roll, too (I mean it). 

When talking about her daughter Olympia she said "she's in this phase right now where she thinks she should get a present everyday. And that's not how things work." She admitted that her daughter's desire to sleep with her and Alexis—her husband—is ruining her dinner plans. When asked about how she relaxes or finds way to destress she said "I love getting my nails done, but that hasn't been an option." She didn't even try to make up another answer. Azzi moved on.

Serena is as Serena does. And her commentary on that cracks me up. In the documentary "Venus and Serena," when asked about her size and body image, Serena said "well first of all I don't lift weighs because I think my arms are already too built. I don't use my upper body. My muscles are just for show, I don't know why they are still here—I never use them."  My students always looked at me in confusion at this comment. Is she serious? they wonder. She names her difficult personalities. There is Meghan and Laquanda. Her mother warned the viewer, "Don't let Laquanda get loose." 

I wonder what is the name of her comedic personality. I'm a fan.

What Motivates Serena
Every great athlete is asked at one point or another to describe why they play the game. Many have something to prove—whether it be to society, someone or even just themselves. Others want to be the greatest, to inspire others and leave a legacy.

Tom Brady has shared that football is the only place where he can truly be himself. I found his reason fascinating; I appreciated hearing something so unexpected. I found that in Serena, too.

At first I wasn't sure if she was dismissive of the question. Serena said what motivates her is love. She loves the game. It's what she loves to do. So simple and yet so on point. Why hadn't I thought of that before?

That love speaks volumes. It's why fans are drawn to certain players. It's not something a person can fake. I'm sure during the tenure of one's career, an athlete must fall in and out of love with their sport. I would like to hear Serena speak to that but I believe her when she states this love is deep, lasting and life-giving. Thank you, Serena!

At the conclusion of the conversation, USF's President, Jesuit Father Paul Fitzgerald thanked Serena for her love of art and support of it. This was news to me as well.

Serena shared her love for modern art and her efforts to support black artists. When she admitted that she was a bit of an artist, I found myself leaning in. I wondered what her medium might be. She didn't say much about this new passion. Instead she stated "tennis is my art." I smiled because that is what I have long believed to be true. 

In Closing
A good meal—a memorable one—is nourishing not just because of the food, but the conversation. Thank you Serena!

I speak about lunch with Serena in my podcast @FaithFondue. Give it a listen HERE!

Photo Credits
USF Silk Series
Playing Tennis

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