From Staff Reports
At only 14 years old, Clayton County Public Schools freshman Taylor Townsend has gained international attention as a three time tennis champion this year. Taylor earned the 2010 International Tennis Federation World Junior Tennis Finals Champion title with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) girls' team under coach Kathy Rinaldi, the USTA National Clay Court Girls' 14s Doubles Champion, and the 2010 Easter Bowl Girls' Doubles Champion while training with Donald Young Sr. of Atlanta.
She was offered one of USTA's wild card entries in the junior qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open.
The tournament will be played September 3-4 in Flushing Meadows, NY.
Taylor manages a hectic schedule that includes high school, tennis training, and competitions, yet she is an honors student. How does she get it all done? "There are no exceptions with my education," she says. "Education is important. The social life always comes last."
She has traveled all over the globe with the USTA girls' team. "You learn so much," she adds. "We are really privileged in this country." The conditions overseas are sometimes less than expected, but Taylor has learned to push through and perform her best. She has lots of good memories from her experiences.
According to her parents, Taylor showed an interest in tennis at a very early age. "Taylor played with a tennis racket since she was about four years old," said her mother, Shelia Townsend. She played her first international competition when she was 12.
Shelia Townsend earned a tennis scholarship to attend college at Lincoln University. Her experience molded her conviction that her daughters Symone and Taylor could play tennis to pay for college. "I'm not paying for college," was a current refrain echoed by Gary Townsend, Taylor's father. Their commitment to see their children attend college was second only to their dedication that the girls receive excellent preparation for college.
Both girls showed an interest in tennis and trained with Donald Young Sr. whose son, Donald Young Jr. was a junior tennis champion from 2003-2006. When Young moved his training camp from Chicago to Atlanta in 2004, the Townsend family considered moving also. "We visited Atlanta in February 2004," says Gary Townsend. "When we left Chicago, they were de-icing the wings on the plane. The temperature was 26 degrees below. When we landed in Atlanta, it was 60 degrees. I thought - we can do this." The family moved to the area in October of 2004 where Taylor attended Arnold Elementary, then M.D. Roberts Middle, and Drew High School.
Shelia Townsend credits Taylor's success to hard work and perseverance. "I have to give credit to her teachers also," she said. "They really used technology to keep her up to date on her assignments." She adds that the Homework Hotline was a great resource when Taylor had questions.
Taylor's performance gained her acceptance into the USTA National Training Program in 2009, but she delayed attending until this year. Taylor left Drew High School after two weeks of the 2010-2011 school year to attend the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, FL. "The coaches there say that she is on point skill wise," said Taylor's mother.
Taylor is passionate about tennis. Her training routine is intense, but she loves it. "When you love what you do, it's not work," says Taylor.
At the training center she will spend about 20 hours per week in practices along with her high school course work. Taylor says she is a regular teen. Her message to other students is that they can achieve their dreams of success. "Just don't give up," she adds with a smile.