Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals visit the Women’s Tennis Team
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t is not everyday that people get to meet legends of their craft, but that is exactly what the women’s tennis team were able to do on Friday.
Former world number one women’s tennis player and Cal State Los Angeles alum, Billie Jean King, met with the tennis team for a small meeting in the President’s Boardroom on Friday, along with another formed top ranked tennis player, Rosie Casals.
The two legendary tennis players were in town for the annual Billie Jean King and Friends Gala, which took place on Saturday in Pasadena. The gala looks to “enhance the student-athlete scholarship program for the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics at Cal State LA,” according to their mission statement.
In previous years King would put on a tennis clinic and meet with the tennis team at the event, but this year she decided to forego the clinic and just sit down and meet with the team on campus the day before.
The meeting began with the girls introducing themselves and their backgrounds to King and Casals, which led to King humorously reminding everyone that she is from the area and that they didn’t need to explain where their hometowns were located.
After the introductions, King took the floor and began to share her wisdom with everyone in the room. What she talked about went beyond just the tennis court. She highlighted the importance of education and was visibly excited when she learned the team might finish with the highest GPA of all the Cal State LA teams.
King, a notable activist, opened up about her history of fighting for equal rights throughout her career. She talked with the team about their experiences and how being women might have affected each of them. She also advised the team that they shouldn’t be afraid or hold back from doing something just because they were women.
The aftermath of King and Casals’ breaking of barriers is still being felt today. Cal State LA tennis player Iris Raileanu is from Sweden, and she says she owes everything she has to them. “I’m an international student and [they’re] the reason why I’m here in this country and I can even play.” Raileanu went on to say, “For us to get to meet her and talk to her it’s a big deal and very inspiring. She’s just an empowered person.”
After the team was assigned some “homework,” which included watching a few movies and looking up a couple dates, the conversation focused in on tennis.
King gave a short lesson on the “contact point,” and gave a demonstration by using a small dinner plate in lieu of a tennis racket. Once the team told her that they would finish number one in their conference, she instructed them to draft up a contract saying just that, and told them to all sign it.
Although the room was only reserved for one hour, the meeting ended up lasting for almost three. King’s insights, along with the witty back-and-forth banter between the two tennis icons combined with questions and a short video presented by the team, made the time fly by.
Head coach Sandy Kriezel had many positive things to say about the meeting. “To be able to have an intimate conversation with Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals does huge things for the girls. I think it empowers them. It’s a once in a lifetime experience for them.”
Once the meeting was over and King wasn’t busy giving selfie instructions, she and Casals had high praise for the girls on the team. King said, “They’re fantastic. Each one is different and unique and wonderful. I know Rosie and I want to wish them to have a really great life during their time here at Cal State LA and beyond for the rest of their lives to really go for it and believe in themselves.”
Both of the former star players are important figures at Cal State LA, as the school named its sports complex after King, and is currently constructing the Rosie Casals/Pancho Gonzalez Tennis Center.
In just three hours it was obvious how much of a rapport King and Casals have, and just how much they both care about the student athletes here at Cal State LA.