Sloane Shape Mag September 2021

Sloane Stephens Wants You to Understand the Power of Paying It Forward

The pro tennis player is a staunch advocate of passing knowledge on to the next generation.

As a tween tennis phenom in California — years before she became a Top 100 player at age 18 and a Grand Slam champion at 24 with her 2017 U.S. Open win — Sloane Stephens was already thinking about the impact of giving back. "Growing up, it was just a part of our family," she says. "Having that connection with people that we could help and be involved in their lives."

She started the Sloane Stephens Foundation eight years ago with a simple plan to pay it forward — and some white paint. "We painted all the blacktops of the elementary and middle schools in Compton into lined tennis courts," says Sloane, 28, who also sprung for the nets and rackets to get the initiative off the ground. "When they were taking recess out of schools, we did recess tennis."

Sloane Shape Mag September 2021
Djeneba Aduayom

The move was a huge hit with the kids, and it sparked Sloane to go big so that her foundation now brings the game — plus educational and other support — to nearly 6,000 kids in this multiracial city near Los Angeles, many of whom know the tennis star hustling among them only from YouTube. (

Sloane shares why she's such a believer in the do-good ripple effect and how we all have it in us to set it in motion.

Making Change

"My goal is not to have a professional tennis player come out of this foundation. Let's have first-generation college students. Especially in underserved communities, kids think you can be a professional athlete or nothing. But that's just not true. Being smart is cool. Being able to get a job is cool. And tennis can be your vehicle."

The Importance of Community

"When I was young, there weren't many kids who looked like me playing tennis. Two years ago, I created a tennis camp in Florida for a diverse group of kids from all over the country. I felt that they needed a place to come together and understand that they're not the only person struggling."

"What good is it if we just keep everything to ourselves and don't help anyone?"

Share Your Magic

"There are many things you can do to help others that cost you nothing. People don't realize what valuable lessons they have: One little effort can change someone's life."

Photography: Djeneba Aduayom, @djeneba.aduayom // Styling: Molly Dickson, @mollyddickson // Lettering: Samantha Hahn, @samanthajhahn // Hair and Makeup: Avonna Wilson // Braids: Tiajade Farquharson, @tiajadenichole // Fashion Assistant: Devyni Hightower, @devynistyles // Creative Director: Noah Dreier, @noahdreier // Photo Director: Toni Paciello Loggia, @toniloggia

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