We sat down with Australian Open Mixed Doubles Champion Rajeev Ram, who is also a Carmel, Indiana native! Read his interview below to learn more about his EntouRaj for Kids Junior Tennis Grant offered through the USTA/Midwest Tennis and Education Foundation. Plus, what the value of teamwork, education, and chasing your dreams means to Rajeev!
About EntouRaj for Kids Rajeev Ram: “EntouRaj for Kids is a non-profit that I started basically for kids of all ages and ability levels just to be introduced to the sport of tennis. We help anyone — from the recreational, high school players, all the way to the high-performance players who are looking to play in college, or maybe beyond. [The goal is] to help people as needed in the local area.” What does the EntouRaj for Kids Junior Tennis Grant Provide? Rajeev Ram: “We try and personalize it to the individual as much as we can. If we see a situation, maybe a family that’s in need, we try and speak with them personally and ask them, hey what would you like to do? Especially maybe some of the high-performance kids who are really into tennis. What do you need? Do you need coaching? Do you need money to travel? [We] really try and help them specifically in the way that they need it. We feel like that’s the best way to help them maximize the potential that they have. The high-performance grant specifically, is the exact same parameters as the Midwest gives and one I received as a kid growing up here in the Midwest Section.” How did the grant you received as a junior help you succeed? Rajeev Ram: “Just to sort of be recognized… [The idea] that I sort of deserved or was in the realm of deserving that sort of support or grant, was really great. Sort of that feeling that someone is paying attention to you and taking notice is inspiring in itself. Obviously, as a kid, you’re not as aware of the financial impact. So, I’m sure that portion would have helped my parents in terms of the travel expenses and all the other things that come with tennis. If you can help the family out with the more adult problems, and help the kid by saying, we love what you’re doing and recognize it, I think it comes with a couple of benefits.” Who should apply for this grant? Rajeev Ram: “Anyone that is looking to try and further their tennis, and kind of take it to the next level should definitely apply and we would encourage that.” How has tennis made an impact on your life? Rajeev Ram: “I don’t remember life without tennis. It’s just been synonymous with what I do on a daily basis. You know? I’ve been lucky that my passion has become my career, and I don’t take that for granted whatsoever. More than anything, tennis has just given me relationships and friendships all over the world that I would have never had. Whether it’s local coaches that have helped me since I was a kid, to people that I’ve worked with on tour, to friends that I’ve made while traveling to parts of the world that I probably never would have gone to had I not played. I think it’s just the relationships and the sort of experiences that it’s given me that I think are the most valuable thing to me — more than the fact that it’s become my career, or the wins, or anything like that.” Did you play high school tennis? Rajeev Ram: “I played high school tennis for a couple of years and college tennis at the University of Illinois… So high school tennis at Carmel High School and the college tennis at the University of Illinois for a year. Tennis is such an individual sport, and those few situations where you can play on a team, they’re pretty special.” Why was it important to you to finish your college degree? Rajeev Ram: “There’s definitely life after tennis. A professional athletic career doesn’t last until the age of other careers. So, I’m gonna have to do something— I’m gonna wanna do something after I’m done playing, and having a degree just really opens up some more doors. It was really a sense of accomplishment to be quite honest, to do it.” You’ve played high school tennis, college tennis, Team Tennis, and on an Olympic Team. What has it meant to you to be part of a team? Rajeev Ram: “I think being in a team situation, if you use it the right way, will bring out the best in you. You can share your thoughts, your feelings, your fears, everything with your teammates because the likelihood is they’re having the same exact feelings. Sometimes when you have teammates you can relate to, just like any other relationship, you kind of seem to thrive in that arena. I’ve really kind of learned to do that better because tennis is such an individual sport. A lot of times you’re told to keep your emotions inside and not give anything away, and all that. When you’re on a team or in doubles even, you’re in it together. So, you’re like, hey I’m feeling nervous today, or I’m feeling sick, or I’m feeling great! Let me be the lead, or whatever it might be. You can sort of reach your potential or reach even higher heights than you ever thought.” What do you say to all the kids going out for their middle school and high school teams this Spring? Rajeev Ram: “Definitely giving a shoutout to all the kids going out for the high school and middle school teams. You’re making a huge step just by trying out. It’s an unbelievable sport — whether you make the team or not is insignificant, to be honest. Just go out there and do your best. For all you newcomers to the sport, it’s something that’s given me my life, my livelihood. Everything I have I owe to tennis. So, I’m glad to have you a part of this sport, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.” The EntouRaj for Kids Junior Tennis Grant will go to one junior player between 14 and 18 years old who competes in USTA and USTA/Midwest Section tournaments. The player must display tennis improvement and a need for financial assistance. Funding will pay for tournament and player development expenses, including airfare, lodging, entry fees, meals, and coaching. The deadline to apply is May 1, 2021. To learn more about this grant, click here. Article By: Molly Doehrmann