What King Richard’s story about the rare father means to the rest of us

In King Richard, the new biography tells the story of the rise of superstar tennis sisters, each now known by one name – Venus and Serena – the protagonist Richard Williams, played by Will Smith’s distinctive Moxie, acts on the familiar parent’s impulse. Who among us would not have told anyone about the abilities of our beloved children within earshot? However, Richard always had a supernatural confidence in the athletic abilities of his two youngest daughters. Parenting manuals advise you to set reasonable expectations for your children. Richard literally wrote his own plan: a 78-page plan to turn Venus and Serena into legends. “I’m raising masters,” Richard says at some point in the film.
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Early on, in the film as in real life, a lily-white tennis facility opposed Richard’s belief that these young black girls, learning the game from cracking, weeds in Compton, California, would redefine the game. A racist coach asks Richard if he likes basketball for his daughters. Richard sends tennis pictures of girls from the 80s to well-known teacher Vic Braden (Kevin Dunn). In a meeting with Richard, Braden, though impressed, explains why he can’t take Venus and Serena as students. “It’s like asking someone to believe that the next two Mozarts will live in your house,” he tells their relentless father.

When it’s obvious that siblings are real things, another coach tells Richard he may have the next Michael Jordan in his hands. He doubles naturally. Richard tells him he has “the next two.”

Richard Williams with his daughters Venus and Serena.
Paul Harris – Getty ImagesRichard Williams, in the middle, with his daughters Venus and Serena in Compton, California in 1991.

Smith’s performance has earned him an early Oscar intoxication. When King Richard, Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, in theaters and streamed at HBO Max on November 19, premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September, audiences cheered during the closing texts. And while the audience knows the final ending – Richard’s plan worked just fine; Williams ’sisters own 30 Grand Slam private games with each other – the film manages to hook viewers as if the end result is a mystery, especially during the peak tennis season. Even close Williams observers may not remember if only 14-year-old Venus at the time shocked Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in world number one in 1994 (and I won’t spoil it here).

Families are sure to come along during the Thanksgiving holiday King Richard together with popcorn or topping. Venus and Serena, charmingly performed by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, provide plenty of inspiration for children. For fathers and mothers – athletes, pianists, preparatory students and others – both the film and the unlikely real-life saga offer the opportunity to forget those guides and “rules” for a few hours and evaluate them. What kind of parents are we? And what kind of parents do we want to be?

It’s nobody could really copy Williams ’story. While the film is a flattering portrait of a passionate Richard – expected in a film starring Venus, Serena and their older sister Isha Price – it is not without criticism for his unusual approach, nor does it completely sugar him over. outrageous features. The film’s most annoying scene concerns Richard’s wife, Oracene Price, at the time, who is often overlooked in Aunjanue Ellis ’fine acting show because she helped keep Richard’s plan for their daughters known, telling her husband about past failures and a bloated ego.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros.Aunjanue Ellis and Will Smith included King Richard

The story remains largely true to the story of the Williams family. Yes, according to Richard’s 2014 memoirs Black and white: How do I see it? a curious neighbor called the police convinced him that he had beaten his daughter. Yes, Sánchez Vicario took an unsportsmanlike bathroom break in his 1994 duel with Venus, who supplanted the green teenager. But the film takes some freedom. Richard writes of a time when he grabbed a gun to hunt down members of the Compton gang who hit him on the tennis courts, but one of them did not die in a passing shoot just as Richard almost pressed the trigger on him. movie illustration. In the book, gang members set off when they see armed Richard approaching; he later discovers that one of them is dead.

Long before the film began, Richard developed his plan to acquire two more daughters and change their tennis masters after watching on television how Romanian Virginia Ruzici won a $ 20,000 check for winning a tournament in 1978. Only two things were missing. : real children and all the professional knowledge of tennis. Venus and Serena arrive soon. Richard learned the game by taking lessons from a guy named Old Whiskey, to whom he said he paid for liquor. Before Venus turned 3, Williams moved his family from Long Beach, a block from the coast, to Compton. “It would make them tough,” he wrote. “Give them a fighter mentality.”

Corey Gauff, whose daughter Coco rushed into tennis life in 2019 when she won Venus at Wimbledon, is one of the few parents who managed to copy at least parts of Richard Williams ’plan. Although Corey never needed the services of Old Whiskey – she grew up playing the game – she has also managed to coach her daughter. At age 17, Coco ranks 17th on the world list. “The biggest thing he and his daughter did was tell me it was possible,” Corey tells TIME. “And it’s OK to do it your own way.”

Richard’s braggadocio is not for everyone. But King Richard turns the lens outrageously at the parents of rural clubs, annoying Venus ’63 consecutive victories in junior matches. They shout to their children. One father asks his daughter to cheat. When police arrive at Richard Compton’s house, he suggests they arrest the other tennis parents. The viewer can only laugh in agreement.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros.With Demi Singleton, Will Smith and Saniyya Sidney King Richard

And if you look past Richard’s carnival barking, you’ll find he embraces two basic principles of success: patience and practice. In the midst of the victory tube of Venus ’wonderful youth, Richard pulled him off the track only on his own advice. Richard had seen other young sensations suffering from injuries and exhaustion before his daughters, such as Tracy Austin and Jennifer Capriati. He wanted to slow things down and emphasize training. When the sisters moved to Florida to practice at tennis academies, they went to school and got good grades. “Training is a good foundation, but it also makes you a better athlete,” says Corey Gauff, whose wife, Candi, a vocational educator, is a homeschooler at Coco. “The brain is also a muscle, isn’t it?”

By keeping Venus out of the tournaments, Richard also gave him more time to hone his skills in practice. American youth sports culture emphasizes ongoing competition, especially in modern times, when athletes are encouraged to specialize and secure ridiculous investments on social media to be broadcast at an ever earlier age. All the travel and demonstration leaves little time for actual improvement. It’s almost as if Richard noticed the “10,000-hour rule” – a study disseminated through Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book, Outliers, promotes the benefits of conscious training – more than a decade ahead of its time.

The result: the siblings have earned millions, launched fashion brands and speak multiple languages. While they developed outside interests earlier in their careers, experts questioned their true dedication to the game. Venus is 41; Serena is 40. They are still playing on tour.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros.With Demi Singleton, Will Smith and Saniyya Sidney King Richard

None of this is easy. The benefits of training are no secret. But when you’re all too aware that your neighbors ’kids are playing in this travel tournament this weekend and the next week in the travel tournament, FOMO is real for both parents and kids.

As a spectator watching my own son, who is now 15, playing youth sports, I have trampled on my feet far too many times, or buried my head in my hands after disappointment. Not the best indication of patience. If he finds me doing this, I know his self-confidence will only suffer. I feel terrible afterwards, and I swear I’ll never do it again. I’ll do it again.

“In all things, including tennis, I decided I would always be their father’s first,” Richard wrote. “It was the best decision I have ever made. I’ve seen so much damage done in this world by parents who choose the other path. ”Richard pushed his daughters to succeed, but it’s clear he avoided damaging their psyche, unlike more notorious tennis insiders like Stefano Capriati, who admitted to putting too much pressure on the 90s. her daughter, Jim Pierce, who was accused of physical and verbal abuse, and at some point she refused access, and if Richard crossed the border King Richard in his honor.

Be a father first. Looks like a winning formula. You are unlikely to achieve the same results as Richard Williams. Don’t expect to be portrayed by a world-famous actor. But wait for the love and respect of your children. It is more valuable than any Oscar.

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