Athlete by day, student activist by night

Rachel Harden didn’t believe she had any athletic abilities until she held a tennis racket at age 7.

“My dad is a tennis coach back home in Augusta, Georgia, so I have been around tennis my whole life.” said Harden “I started getting good at age 8 or 9 so I started to take it serious.”

Winning tournaments and trophies throughout her younger days, she hopes to do the same at Florida A&M University. The team came close by being the No. 1 seed in the MEAC South and reaching the MEAC semifinals in April.

Although Harden defeated her opponent 6-0 the team came up short and lost to Morgan State University. 

Fellow teammate and locker neighbor Haleigh Porter said the team consisted of five freshmen and two sophomores. She believes the team has grown closer by almost winning the championship.

“Rachel and I have similar experiences coming in as freshmen together. Learning everything was hard last year but it brought us closer as a team,” said Porter, a sophomore journalism student from Chicago. 

Harden was recently elected as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. This is her first year on the committee and she plans to increase community service and attention to all athletic teams at FAMU.

“We are the voice of athletics. If a student has an issue they bring it to us and we find who is responsible to resolve it,” Harden said. “I want to bring more awareness to non-revenue sports like bowling, track, tennis, baseball and golf are just some of the sports that need attention and it’s free entry for the games.”

Another teammate and SAAC treasurer, Adrienne Clayton, a sophomore business administration student, said she wants to bring attention to the less visible athletic groups.

“I want to get more student athletes involved on the committee. Rachel is good at bringing our tennis team and friends together so hopefully that reflects through for her as SAAC president this year,” said Clayton.

Although Harden shows dedication on the court, she’s especially proud that the tennis team holds the seat for highest GPA out of all the FAMU athletic teams. Education is important to her and the future goal is to apply to law school after receiving her bachelor’s in 2021. 

“My major is African American studies so I want to be a civil rights attorney,” said Harden. “I have to keep my GPA as high as possible and prepare for the LSAT. I do want to have a career outside of tennis.”

Harden says her parents inspire her. Their hard work and support motivates her to keep playing. She even considers teaching tennis  to follow in her dad’s footsteps, depending on where life takes her. 

Tennis coach Rochelle Nikki Goldthreate has been coaching tennis for nearly 14 years at FAMU and is heavily involved in the recruiting efforts for the team. Luckily, she and Harden have similar backgrounds that allow them to connect on and off the court.

“Our dads know each other since they both coach tennis so I’ve been seeing Rachel play and hearing about her since she was a little girl,” Goldthreate said. “It takes heart to play tennis. The number one goal for this upcoming season is to be a family. As long as we’re continuing to improve on and off the court then the ultimate goal will come easy.”