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Championing the Mom: Gloria Connors, the True Champ in a World of Mean Men!

November 21, 2013

To many tennis enthusiasts, of this generation, Jimmy Connors may be a distant memory. He was one of my heroes. I never saw him play. What I interestingly saw was his restaurant “Centre Court” in the small town of Belleville, Illinois. Now face to face with his book “The Outsider”, wherein Jimmy also highlights some amazing insights about his formidable mom and I cannot wait to share till I am done with this entire lovely memoir. Perhaps there will be more as I progress with it. Men can be very mean when it comes to success of women. I do not wish to come in the way of what champion Jimmy has to say in his words:

“A lot has been written about my mom being a stage mother, so let me set the record straight. Why was it OK for Joe Montana’s dad to teach his son football or Wayne Gretzky’s dad to teach him hockey but it wasn’t OK for Gloria Connors to teach her son tennis? Mom stepped right into a man’s world and a man’s game during the height of Women’s Movement in the 1970s. Up until that point, people weren’t used to dealing with a woman in the business end of tennis; both men and women players had men as managers, and men organized and ran tournaments. Along comes this feisty little woman from East St. Louis whose son was proving to be a winner, and they had to deal with her. While Billie Jean King was in the forefront as the first woman athlete to enter the boardroom, Mom had already been doing exactly that behind the scenes, fighting the established tennis bureaucracy. Now, if I hadn’t been winning, they could have dismissed her and it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But my mom represented me. And not only represented me but was my mother, coach, and friend.

She paid the price for treading into that traditionally male-dominated territory by having some pretty aggressive criticism thrown at her by the tennis establishment and the media. They would say she wanted my success more than I did because she had never had it herself, that she hadn’t been good enough so she tried to make her son good enough. They called her “domineering” and “Dragon Lady.” If it got to her, I never knew about it and neither did anyone else.”

 

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