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Darko and Byrd Tennis Academy

Owner: Whitney Shanise Byrd, Johns Creek, GA

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Whitney Byrd - Darko Tennis Academy

Whitney Shanise Byrd, along with her partners Charles Byrd and Henry Darko, started their business, Darko and Byrd Tennis Academy, five years ago to teach high performance tennis to all children regardless of their race.

As one of only a few Black female tennis coaches, Byrd was tired of being told "no." After spending a lifetime of being pushed to the side, she decided to form her own academy in conjunction with her partners. It doesn't hurt that Byrd not only loves the game of tennis, but even more so, she relishes having the opportunity to make the men of the game look bad.

Darko and Byrd Tennis Academy gives kids who are already great or just love the game of tennis an opportunity to go to college, or even play professionally like Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka or Serena Williams. Not every young person will play professionally or receive a scholarship, but that's OK said Byrd. Some players use the academy as an outlet to network and expand their social circle. The staff also encourages academy participants to consider a career in coaching.

What's most important is that "we're promoting Black excellence to little Black children, showing them that we can dominate in a sport that may seem unfamiliar in the Black community," Byrd said.

And Byrd credits much of their success to their all-Black staff. She said the BeyGOOD grant will fill a number of needs.

 "It is truly a godsend," Byrd said. "The pandemic really damaged us financially."

The funds will be used to purchase much-needed inventory and tennis clothing. The grant money will also help pay rent for the very expensive court space they need, in addition to the cost of travel for students to play in tournaments.

 "We are honestly so grateful, thank you," Byrd said.

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