Tennis icon Billie Jean King lauds young athletes for talking about mental health


SAN DIEGO – Tennis legend Billie Jean King recently stopped by San Diego’s Barnes Tennis Center to check in on some of the best up-and-coming girls in the country.

Offering words of wisdom from her years of excellence in the sport, the 39-time Grand Slam champion says she often finds herself learning from today’s young players.

“I go, ‘Do you play other sports?’ and the girl goes, ‘Yeah, ballet,’” King said. “I loved it because in the old days, they would put always put dancer and ballet separate from sports but this generation – I’d say she’s five years old, to her – ballet is a sport and I go, ‘Yes!’ because I used to say that all the time.

“You learn from the kids. I didn’t realize that’s how they were thinking.”

King and the original nine, who took a stand for equal rights in 1970, all were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The world of tennis has changed a lot since King’s playing days, including athletes feeling confident enough to talk about mental health. Most notably, four-time Grand Slam champ Naomi Osaka, who’s openly discussed the topic.

“I’m big on getting help,” King said. “I’m big on therapy, I’m big on mediation, the holistic way of thinking about your life and I think it’s out there more now and I think it’s good that we’re talking about it. … It’s really important to own your feelings, so if you’re feeling pressure, I think it’s important to talk about because ownership helps you heal.”

King has a new autobiography coming out, called “All In.” She says the book, which was four years in the making, drew out plenty of emotions for the 77-year-old before it all came together.

“I had a very difficult time,” King said. “I kept reliving my life. It was tough and then I had some joyous moments too, which was wonderful but it’s all in there. It was rough but I’m glad I did it.”

“All In” comes out Aug. 17.

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