The Goolagong Impact
The International Tennis Hall of Fame elected Evonne Goolagong into its organization in 1988. Her greatness on the court, in spite of some dry years, was indisputable. But Goolagong used her tennis career as a springboard to go on and work at making the world she knows a better place. Ever since she turned pro, Goolagong had been in the spotlight. As a black woman in a sport that then consisted mostly of the white upper-class, Goolagong stood out. When she was a young star—like many young athletes of color often do—she chose to let her work on the court speak for itself and remaine mostly silent when the microphones where in her face. At the time, Goolagong was not interested in the political implications of being an aboriginal black in a predominately white game.
She stirred controversy more than a few times, however, such as in 1972 when, after being invited to play in a segregated South African tournament, she agreed to participate. Goolagong had been given the classification of "honorary white," for the event, and many people were irritated that, in addition to the tournament being segregated, Goolagong agreed to play in the first place. When asked why she chose to participate, she simply replied, "Of course I'm proud of my race, but I don't want to be thinking about it all the time."
In the years since her retirement, however, Goolagong—who for some time has gone by the name Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, adding her husband Roger's surname to her own—has returned to her origins and, in an attempt to know herself better, has become a student of her people and her native culture. Looking at the world differently now than she did at twenty, Goolagong has a different take on her background. "I would like more people to come out and say they are not racist," she told the Adelaide, Australia Sunday Mail. She worries about the silence of people and how it gets overpowered by those who are racist. "I can feel the tension in the wider community," she said.
After moving to the United States in the 1970s and living in America for almost two decades (first on Hilton Head Island, then in Naples, Florida), Goolagong, along with husband Roger Cawley and their two children, daughter Kelly and son Morgan, returned to Australia in 1991. They bought a house in Noosa, Queensland. "I realized that I had spent too much time away," she told Sports Illustrated's Jeff Pearlman. "I wanted to know who my parents were, who I was… I never knew what it really meant to be an Aborigine. Then two Aborigine elders invited me to particpate in a ceremony, one where you looked deep into yourself. It was the first time I felt truly home."
Goolagong's influence on the budding tennis stars of her home country is strong. "Tennis brought me out of myself and that's why it's been a great education for me," she told the Adelaide, Australia newspaper The Advertiser. This once shy girl now helps other young girls gain ground in a great sport. Goolagong runs the Evonne Goolagong Getting Started program with Tennis Australia.
- Evonne Goolagong - Awards And Accomplishments
- Evonne Goolagong - Not Done Yet
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