King Richard Isn't About Tennis
This Thanksgiving after dinner, my family and I decided we would fire up our HBO Max account (skip the crowds in the theaters) and watch King Richard. This is the latest blockbuster from Warner Bros starring Will Smith and follows the story and life of Venus and Serena Williams. The film was amazing!
This film is the origin story that gives us a glimpse into the life of Venus and Serena Williams and how two girls from Compton California became some of the best tennis players in history. Especially Serena who is arguably the best tennis player of all time.
About halfway through the film, it became apparent this movie was not about tennis. We didn't learn the scoring, about the products, technical terms, or much at all about playing the game of tennis. We didn't learn the difference between a forehand, backhand, slice, or volley. We learned about the dedication a father had to give his daughters a better life, especially Serena and Venus.
This was a story about King Richard, a brilliant man with a plan. Richard Williams is the reason Serena and Venus Williams are household names; however, he doesn't get enough credit for the amazing feat of taking two sisters from Compton California that had no professional training and making them the face of women's tennis.
Smith did an amazing job portraying the genius and yet craziness behind Richard Williams. What a lot might have thought of as borderline child abuse (as a neighbor points out in the movie when she called the cops on the Williams family) Richard was trying to protect his two daughters. Richard Williams even said, "They work as hard as they need to to stay off these streets."
King Richard Broke Down Barriers
While driving with his daughters you see a tired and beaten down man tell his daughters, "This world ain't never had no respect for Richard Williams. But they going to respect ya'll." Richard reflects on his childhood and the extreme racism that he faced growing up. Even recalling one time getting beaten in the streets because he accidentally touched the hand of a white man. He faced such adversity, hard and trying times but he always knew his two daughters were destined for greatness. As Smith says in the movie while portraying King Richard, "I wrote me a seventy-eight-page plan for their whole career before they was even born."
Yes, King Richard had a plan; however, breaking down those barriers still wasn't easy for his daughters Venus and Serena. Venus and Serena entered into tennis when the sport did not have much diversity. They faced trying times and racism from some people but their father Richard Williams always told them not to worry about what other people thought about them, "And you don't need to be worrying about what other folks is doing anyway. You need to worry about what you doing. We out here getting great, that's what we need to be worrying about."
Richard's strength as a father of five children, especially towards Venus and Serena is what gave us two of the best tennis professionals that we as tennis fans have ever been able to watch. Venus and Serenas father Richard never took no for an answer. He approached some of the top tennis coaches across the nation and somehow convinced them to train the Williams sisters. In the beginning, the coaches only wanted to train Venus Williams for free, said they couldn't do two for free.
Richard didn't let the lack of professional training for Serena deter him from his "plan". Instead, Richard brought a video camera to all of the practices Venus had so when they got home they could watch it with Serena and train together. Serena's mom played a large role in the training of Serena when Richard was at practice with Venus. She even remarks later in the movie that she fixed Serena's serve (that he messed up). I guess we have Serena Williams mom to thank for giving us one of the biggest serves we have ever seen in women's tennis.
Despite Serena's slower start her father Richard Williams always knew she was destined to be something amazing:
Richard Williams: "Can I tell you a secret? Your sister is going to be number one in the whole world, no doubt about it."
Serena Williams: "I know that."
Richard Williams: "But you, you're going to be the best there ever was. You're going to be the greatest of all time. You know how I know that? Because I planned for it. I knew you was having a hard time in Venus's shadow, but I kept you there because I knew you was rough. I knew you was tough. I knew you was a fighter. That's why I did this whole thing like this."
Putting Your Kids in Sports Can Be A Great Outlet for Them
Something else this movie made clear was what a great outlet sports are for kids. I am not a parent yet (of humans, I have two fur babies... Sabrina and Sasha) so I never really understood the importance of putting my kid in a sport. But this movie made me realize that playing a sport gives kids something that other children who don't participate in sports might not have. It teaches kids about discipline. It teaches them that hard work pays off. It gives kids something to work towards, it gives them goals. A sport of any kind gets a child up off the couch and away from the tv which in this day in age is what we need.
Putting your child in a sport will require a lot of hard work and dedication from a mother, father, and the rest of the family. I see it in our store all the time. Some kids are getting their racquets strung 5-10 times a week (because they are breaking string) and their parents are always with them. They travel with them for tournaments and go to every practice. It is not only a huge commitment of money but also a huge commitment of time to put your son or daughter in a sport.
I think the thing that was the most eye-opening for me was that as a mother or father you truly can shape your child's future. I use to think it was all just about paying for private lessons and training with coaches. But it's so much more than just money. As a mom or dad, it's just about giving your time. As a family, you also have to give up your time. That is what the Williams family did they gave their time. It was a group effort between the mom, dad, and girls. Venus and Serena had their sisters out with them at almost every practice shagging balls and cheering them on. To this day when they play their sisters are still in the grandstand cheering them on.
To become Venus or Serena where you receive compensation and are known all over the world and as a Hollywood celebrity is rare. However, that's not when it's about. It's about putting your children in an activity where they can feel proud about themselves and their accomplishments. It also showed me that sports can bring a family together and give them something to cheer for and to work towards.
If I ever have kids I will definitely be having them play a spot. Right now I will just have to settle for fetch with Sabrina and Sasha.
Overall Opinion of King Richard
When I first saw this movie advertised about tennis legends Venus, Serena and their father Richard Williams I was so excited! I was so excited for our sport, I knew this would bring new people to the game. I was also excited for another movie starring Will Smith. In my opinion, anything with Will Smith is usually amazing, he is such a captivating actor! Smith definitely did not disappoint in the King Richard Movie.
Zach Baylin did an amazing job as the writer telling the story of Venus and Serena Williams and their dad. I think that it was good to see the story of their life from their side versus what has been portrayed by the media. Their dad was wildly criticized for the way he trained Venus and Serena. But what I took from it was he was just a dad that wanted a better life for his girls.
The acting job was amazing from the entire cast as well. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton who played the young Venus and Serena were superb! They looked as though they had a background in tennis as well because I thought their form was great! Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew who played one of Venus and Serena Williams half siblings Yetunde Price had a small role but I thought she did amazing. Something that wasn't covered in the movie but a sad part of the Williams family's past was Yetunde was murdered back in 2003 in a shooting in Compton. Then there was the acting job from Will Smith... and honestly, I'm at a loss for words. Will Smith is always amazing in his films but I think this might be Oscar-worthy!
Overall, I can't say enough good things about this movie. If you haven't watched it yet watch it NOW! You are missing out. If you have watched it I would love to hear your thoughts.