Tennis transforms the life of one immigrant girl in Alabama I Annual Salute to Women in Sports

When Mercy moved from Kenya to the U.S. a few years ago, she struggled to speak the language and lived her life as a wallflower. After joining the Birmingham Area Tennis Association’s LETT program, Mercy transformed from a shy adolescent to a friendly, confident teenager with a powerful presence on the court. Watch the full Women’s Sports Foundation's Annual Salute to Women in Sports presented by Yahoo Sports here.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

- I'm Mercy, and I'm in the LETT Tennis learning program.

SUZY HARRIS: Mercy is one of our students, and she lives here in Birmingham. But she's originally from Kenya and moved here a few years ago. We focus on providing tennis and learning opportunities for youth who are underserved and may not have a chance to participate in sports. So I went to her school, and we were trying to recruit players. And she had the most amazing smile you've ever seen. And I could barely hear her say her name. But she and I were partnered up, and we did all the activities together.

- It looked so hard. I did not think I could do that. I did not get it quickly. Coach Suzy was there. She helped me.

SUZY HARRIS: It wasn't until her brother came the next year and joined our program that we started seeing her more.

- Well, because everybody kept telling me to do it. And so I had to give in, so I tried it.

SUZY HARRIS: The Women's Sports Foundation has been our community partner. And their support has really allowed us to expand our offerings in support of girls. And what we've found is that the girls that we were working with had extremely low self-esteem. And so with the women's Sports Foundation, we were able to add a life coach, Sarah, and her Coaching for Kids curriculum.

SARAH BAILEY: It's so nice to see them excel at something that they might not normally have the opportunity to try.

- I had, like, hit a backhand right. And then I was happy. Then I thought I could do that, so I kept going.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

I did not like talking to people. I like to stay by myself.

SUZY HARRIS: There are many days that she wouldn't sit with the full group, that she would set aside at another table. And then eventually she started sitting with everyone else.

- She started to talk to people a lot. She's coming out of her shell.

- I socialize better now. Like, because everybody on the team helped me.

SARAH BAILEY: She's just a joy to be around. She has developed a sense of confidence in herself and in her game that sometimes takes people years to get to.

- I don't like giving up. I'm better than my brother.

- It is the other way around.

- Yeah, I'm better.

- When she beats me, I feel like sad but happy at the same time that she's learning how to play.

- I let my tennis do the talking.

SUZY HARRIS: She has the opportunity to play for her high school team if she chooses. She could make a college team.

- I love tennis, and I hope I get to play it forever.

[MUSIC PLAYING]