Professional WTA player and U.S. Open Champion Sloane Stephens’ powerful play is felt both on the court and in the communities she supports. She first picked up a racket as a nine-year-old on the public courts of South Florida, recognizing from a young age the power of tennis and the happiness and confidence it can bring to players. However, it quickly dawned on her how the cost to play can create greater inequality and barriers.
As Stephens’ professional tennis career took off, she established the Sloane Stephens Foundation (SSF) in 2013 to create an impact in Compton, California, nearby where she regularly trains, as well as in the South Florida community where she first learned her life’s passion and still resides. The foundation provides educational opportunities and encourages healthy lifestyles for underserved youth to enable them to dream and achieve big, on and off the tennis court. SSF also strives to counter limiting factors such as inequitable academic opportunities, poverty, and community violence while cultivating a new generation of tennis players.
As a long-time partner of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), SAP is joining forces with the foundation to create greater opportunity for all through a shared vision: believing that tennis and sport have the power to change lives, and that all kids deserve access to quality education and are capable of achieving incredible things when given the opportunity.
“When I started playing tennis, I didn’t realize how expensive a racket or balls were. So I started the foundation to not only break down those financial barriers to a sport that’s always given me joy, but to also help kids live healthy lifestyles and have equal access to education through tutoring and mentorship,” Stephens said. “I’m grateful to SAP for joining us on this journey, providing invaluable resources to make a unique impact on youth in the South Florida and Compton communities.”
SAP will support the foundation by assisting with the formalization of a high-performance tennis program in South Florida and providing crucial program support to the existing Love, Love Compton program, as the team works to expand capacity during the safe return to in-person programming in order to combat learning loss.
“Sloane’s ambition for her foundation perfectly aligns with our core values and purpose — to improve people’s lives in our local and global communities,” said Judith Williams, chief diversity and inclusion officer at SAP. “We support SSF’s mission of fostering equality for all through quality education and overall health and well-being and we are honored to support SSF as they empower underserved youth to follow their dreams.”
Since inception, 100% of SSF students have graduated high school and successfully gone on to a two- or four-year higher-education institution. Additionally, 100% of summer camp students have maintained or improved their grade-level reading abilities. However, COVID-19 has shaken the status quo of the education system. Everything from lacking reliable WiFi to not having a device or parents at home to help navigate video conferencing makes existing inequities even more significant.
“As the world moves forward and continues to recover, it is crucial that no one is left behind,” said SSF Executive Director Dr. Sybil Smith, Ed.D. “SAP understands the importance of putting people first and will not only help us combat learning loss but also create opportunity through learning and development for all.”
Since 2013, SAP has worked with the WTA and others across the tennis community to provide innovative technology that helps advance and grow the sport around the world. Read more stories about SAP’s involvement in women’s tennis here.
More information on the Sloane Stephens Foundation is available at sloanestephensfoundation.org.
Bonnie Rothenstein is vice president of Global Sponsorships at SAP.