Personal Essay: A young girl steps onto a tennis court, and finds out who she really is

People Like Me

by Miyah Davis

If I hadn’t walked onto a tennis court five years ago when I was 10 years old, Lord only knows what I’d be doing. 

Who knows who I would be. 

I am 15 now. I have a lot of childhood friends who are doing great—and I have a lot who aren’t doing so well. There are some who are expecting children, some with children, some in prison, and even some who are dead. I may have been in the same situations. Not that having children is a bad thing; I just feel that it would be too much responsibility for a 15- or 16-year-old to handle. 

Where I’m from in West Philadelphia, playing sports is usual, but it’s only usual if you play a usual sport. Basketball and football are common, but tennis? Tennis was something totally different. When I was first introduced to tennis through Team Up Philly—an organization here in Philadelphia that helps girls like me get involved in sports—my life changed. 

When I started the program, I was in the fifth grade. I was shy, overweight and reliant on a diet of junk food—and I wasn’t really open to trying anything new. I think my teacher realized that many of us might go down the wrong path, and asked Team Up Philly to come work with us. At first, I took the game for a joke. I never believed that it was a real sport. I mean, how hard could it be to hit a ball with a racket? 

It turns out it was harder than I thought. But over the course of the next few years, tennis became my best friend. Every chance I got, I was on the tennis courts. 

I also learned that to be healthy I had to exercise and eat nutritiously. Changing what I ate was also extremely hard for me: I didn’t like fruit, I didn’t like vegetables, and I loved junk food. Now, I love fruit and vegetables. I still love junk food, too, but I eat less of it. My tastes have changed, and I transformed my body. 

I also transformed my mind. I found out a lot about people, including myself. I learned how to deal with people properly. I learned that I will not particularly like everyone I come across, but that I have to treat everyone the way that I would like to be treated. I learned how to speak to people as well: I learned how to “switch it up” because you can’t speak to everyone the same. The way I talk to my friends is completely different from the way I talk to my mother, or the way I speak to my boss.  

I speak to myself differently, too. If before I was shy, now I have confidence—courage, even—to do great and be great. 

Through playing tennis, I have been exposed to things that I didn’t even know existed and encouraged to do things that people like me don’t always have the opportunity to do. Being a part of Team Up Philly has opened so many doors. The last five years has been a life-changing experience. 

After spending so many years with Team Up Philly, the main thing that I learned was that the choices I make mean everything. No matter how much someone tells you what’s right and what’s wrong, as a human being, you will always make the choice you want to make.

I choose to play tennis. For me, it’s the right choice. I have a feel of the real world, and I am heading down the right path. I will always be grateful to the sport and to Team Up Philly for helping to make me the person I am today. 

Miyah Davis is a student at Central High School in Philadelphia, a junior coach for Team Up Philly and a tennis player.