Introduction to Athletics

Yearbook Photo 1984 - Orangeburg-Wilkinson Tennis Team

Yearbook Photo 1984 - Orangeburg-Wilkinson Tennis Team

Watching tennis greats like Martina Navratilova, Billy Jean King, and Chris Evert in the 70's and early 80's made me want to play tennis.  My parents were happy to support this interest but only if I promised to stick with it.  I had to prove that I really wanted to play especially since I was only 8 years old when I asked for my first tennis racket.  My dad finally went to Kmart and got me a wooden Chris Evert racket after seeing me glued to the TV week after week and hitting a tennis ball against our house with my hand.  From that point on, I remember hitting a tennis ball almost every day for years and played on a team from 7th grade through high school. I also learned about Althea Gibson who the first African American to win the French Open in 1956. If she could compete, I thought so could I.  Although I was never a star tennis player, I did develop a mean backhand and a consistent serve through lots of practice.  After high school, tennis remained in my life but only as a social outlet.  Except for that one time during my postdoc when I was asked to teach beginning tennis at the University of Miami.  It was either tennis or anatomy and physiology.  I opted to be outside with no regrets.  It was actually fun to be back on the courts again showing others how to play.  

Practicing with my Prince tennis racket - New Hillcrest Courts

Practicing with my Prince tennis racket - New Hillcrest Courts

My first coach, Mr. Carl Williams, also taught me about responsibility.  I heard him say many times, "excuses only satisfies the man who makes them."  That has stuck with me all of my life and it helps me to stay focused on my commitments.  I truly believe that my playing tennis taught me many invaluable life lessons and I am grateful that my parents supported my participation in this fine sport.  As for now, I occasionally catch one of the major tournaments on TV and have fond memories of this sport that taught me the importance of dedication, endurance, and persistence. 

For the Love of Nature

It's amazing how seemingly chance encounters can change the course of  your life.  Well, last week something like that happened to me and the idea of Black on the Outside was born. In my job as an academic researcher, I am often asked my opinion on topics in the area of physical activity or obesity but an email from the National Park Service really got my attention. Some of you know how much I love being outside running and hiking through the woods but I had not linked this passion to my day job.  At least I had not thought of a way to integrate the two just yet.

Anyway, one of the national parks wanted my opinion on setting up a panel of scholars to talk about what they could do to get more African Americans to visit their park.  Since this was outside of my area of expertise, I referred her to other African Americans doing this work, The African American Nature & Parks Experience (Teresa Baker) and Outdoor Afro (Rue Mapp).  And for my part, I told her stories of my childhood experiences that led me to my passion for the outdoors.  It was during this conversation that I felt a shift in my being as I recalled memories of my dad hunting, fishing, horseback riding and a bunch of other outdoor activities. My dad had all kinds of guns for hunting wild game (deer, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and possums -- yes, he ate this stuff)  and he showed me how to shoot all of them. I was always eager to try new things and to prove to my dad that I could do anything even though girls were not always encouraged to participate in adventurous activities.  But my dad let me tag along with him whenever he was doing stuff outside.  I guess you could say I am a little country girl who fell in love with nature through exposure and encouragement from her dad.  

My dad.

My dad.

In the end,  I suggested that the park representative go talk to the African American people in her community to find out their stories and why they use or do not the park.  I think a lot has to do with experience and a feeling of support and being welcomed.  So in addition to including pictures of a diverse cross-section of people of color on park advertisements, it is important to include our stories of convening with nature.  

Black on the Outside is a collection of stories from childhood up to now that shows the value of early experiences on future behaviors.  Some of these accounts are scary and some are hysterical.  Hopefully, some of my stories will resonate with you and move you to get outside! 


Fun-ctionality: A few of my favorite things for the outdoors

I guess by now you can tell that I love being in nature.  Here are a few truly functional things that help me to enjoy my time outside just a little bit more.  :-)

  1. All things Hydroflask. @hydroflask
  2. Freaking socks from FreakerUSA. @freakerUSA
  3. Rain gear.  @outdoorresearch
  4. Dry feet!  @drymaxsocks
  5. Gear for training. ;-)  @athleta
  6. Trucker hats.  @bocogear
  7. Big scarves and yoga pants. @prana
  8. Trail running shoe with wide toe box! @topoathletic
  9. Hydration for life.  @ultimatedirectionusa
  10. Sweater jacket. @patagonia
  11. Warm hands. @c9attarget
  12. Warm head. @peacelovebehippy
  13. Fly racing gear. @inknburn
  14. Best jeans ever. @hollisterco
  15. One more t-shirt. @badpickletees
  16. Everything REI - Member since 1994. @rei
  17. Hanging out. @enohammocks
  18. Journals. @moleskine_world
  19. Hoodies. @oiselle
  20. Lifestyle clothes. ;-) @lelowomen

Many of these are small companies or started as small shops which make me love them even more.  Don't forget to #ShopSmall throughout the Holidays!  Hope you enjoy exploring this list.  I would also love to hear about your favorite things!  :-)  @OliviaAdventure #GetOutside 

Loving nature! King's Chair at Oak Mountain State Park.