Serena and Venus Williams’ Mom Talks About Raising Two Tennis Icons

Tennis superstar sisters Serena and Venus Williams are known around the world for their prowess in the sport. Born only one year apart, the dynamic duo have competed for – and won – a host of international tennis titles. Fans of the two athletic icons may wonder how they grew to possess such a disciplined work ethic. According to their mom, who recently spoke with Sheinelle Jones of the Today Show, the sisters were born hard workers.

Serena Williams and Venus WIlliams | TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

A family move

Oracene Price, mother of Serena and Venus, also had three other children to tend to while the family lived in Compton, California. Noticing the raw athletic talent in the two sisters, Price made their mastery of the sport a priority and moved the family to Florida. “It was just a decision in regards to coaching and getting a better facility,” Price said, according to

Price also was concerned about her family’s safety since Compton was known to be a dangerous area. “It was really bad. Before they went out to practice, I always told them ‘If you hear anything… hit the ground.’ That was the standard rule,” she said.

Pulling double duty as mom and coach

The female tennis titans are known to be disciplined in their practice and training. Price takes no credit for their work acumen, saying they both were always determined in what they strove to achieve. “They had goals in mind. I saw them working so hard, and they never ever complained. Never said ‘I don’t want to go,'” Price said, as reported by “And in my mind, they were gonna be this. It was a lot of naysayers saying that they’re not gonna make it, but I never thought they wouldn’t.”

Price instilled independence in Serena and Venus, giving them the skills they needed to be on their own. “You teach, or at least I taught, my kids to grow up and be self-sufficient and not to come back here, to me,” she said. “They’ll be able to take care of themselves, and they’ll be strong enough.”

Price took more than just an interest when her daughters began getting serious about the sport – she also became a coach. Price always felt it was important to focus on the mental component of the game. “[During a match], I’m watching their techniques, mostly,” she said. “But before the game, I’m watching them mentally. And I see a lot of people go out there, not mentally there, but it is so important, cause you have to believe that you can do something before you do it.”

The mom of five also knew she needed to pull back and not over critique the sisters’ playing. “I just learned it,” she said. “I just never did it. Don’t tell them what you shoulda did and what they shoulda did — that’ll drive them crazy. You just have to leave it alone.”

Life lessons

Price has more than the sport to navigate with her two daughters in the public eye. She discussed the body shaming comments that Serena has been the target of, saying, “She thought that she had to look like everybody else, you know? I mean, we’re all made different. We all have different looks. And if you really look at it, everybody’s beautiful. And one size don’t fit all.”

Her pride shows when she talks about how her daughters are using their celebrity to help others. “When you can help somebody else, or you see something that you did to help someone else be better, that’s the best than anything in the world,” Price said. “Kids learn from you. Help them understand that they have to love their neighbor. They have to be courteous, they have to be kind. That’s part of strength. It’s easy to go and jump and be belligerent… It’s hard, it’s very difficult to be kind to someone who’s not being kind to you.”

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Price admitted to sometimes wondering if she’s made the right decisions over the years, and how she received some positive validation. “One was the time when they both told me, at different times, that they love their life,” she said. “One year, Venus came to me and she said ‘Mom, I love my life.’ Sometimes you wonder if you’re doing the right thing. I was thinking, asking, I hope I did the right thing. And the next year, Serena came and said the same words. That was a big relief.”