Breanna Reeves |

Important Message from the Editor: 

Everyone has a story to tell about their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The IE Voice and Black Voice News is presenting this report in four parts, highlighting the journeys of inland empire residents during this ongoing, historic and pervasive event.  

Meet Competitive Tennis Player Denise Campbell

Denise Campbell is a 16-year-old competitive tennis player who has been playing tennis since she was five years old. 

As an incoming freshman at John W. North High School, Denise placed on the varsity tennis team and was named the No.1 girls’ singles player.

Denise was a Sunbelt League champion during this year’s singles tournament. Due to COVID-19 the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section was subject to limitations in hosting local tournaments. Denise was unable to compete as a result.

Denise Campbell poses for a picture at tennis practice on March 4, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Synthia Campbell)

Normally, CIF Individual Tennis Championships are handled in three steps. First, every league in the CIF Southern Section holds an individual tennis championship tournament and the winner and finalist qualify for the next step. In Step 2, five sectional tournaments are held and each of these tournaments is seeding with four of the top 20 ranked players in the entire CIF Southern Section. The four players who are undefeated from each section are put into a new pool and a new seed is established for the next step. In the final step, the top 12 competitors in singles and doubles are automatically put into “the Round of 16” in a new tournament. Competitors ranked 13 through 20 then play each other for the final four spots.  

According to Denise’s tennis coach, Scott Harris, only Step 3 was utilized in establishing the Individual Championships due to COVID. CIF did not secure permission from the health departments of some counties, including Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino, to hold tournaments which would attract large crowds. Only Orange County gave permission by the CIF deadline. However, two days after the deadline, Riverside County gave permission to hold a tournament, but it was too late.

Denise is an upcoming junior and before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she was training or working out every day. When California initiated the lockdown she was not able to train as often due to restrictions.

“At one point I kind of lost any motivation to do anything because for a while I couldn’t do anything,” said Denise. “So, whenever I was able to start doing things I was used to doing, I didn’t really have the motivation to because I was just so used to sitting and not doing anything.”

Denise Campbell at tennis practice in March 2021. (Photo courtesy of Synthia Campbell)

California is now fully open and most restrictions have been lifted. Several schools in Riverside Unified School District and Los Angeles Unified School District resumed in-person learning for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year and will resume in-person learning in the fall. Riverside Unified School District will offer in-person learning, virtual learning or home-based learning for the upcoming school year. 

Denise officially begins school in August, but during the summer she was enrolled in online summer to get ahead in her junior year. She’s also been spending her time training at North High School.

“(Life) is kind of going back to normal. It’s not necessarily how it was before the pandemic, but it’s a lot closer. I’m training more. I’m pretty sure school’s going to be fully back in person,” said Denise. “(Training) is going pretty good. It’s really hot, but I’m not training every day like I used to, but it’s still good because on the days I do choose to do it, it’s really fun.”
Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.

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