Going Pro: Counterman Kamau Murray on Tennis, Opportunity, and First Impressions

As unique and exemplary as they may be, our Countermen all possess a commonality: they embody our standards and are doing their part to create change for good, in their communities and the world at large. For Kamau Murray, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the path to giving back began on the court. He took up tennis at seven years old because it was offered as a free after-school program, went on to play tennis at Florida A&M University on a scholarship, and, later, coached tennis pro Sloane Stephens to win the U.S. Open. Inspired by his tennis heroes and motivated to help the underserved youth of Chicago, Kamau founded the XS Tennis and Education Foundation, which gives kids a safe and encouraging athletic outlet, as well as the potential opportunity to earn college scholarships.

Kamau Murray
Chicago, IL 
Founder of XS Tennis and Education Foundation and professional tennis coach 
 
Life Motto: “Champions adjust.” 
Essential Product: Counterman Smoothing Shave Cream  

Beautycounter: What is the XS Tennis and Education Foundation? 

Kamau Murray: It provides Chicago’s underserved youth with an enriching safe haven and a positive academic/athletic pathway to college and successful careers. 

BC: What inspired you to start XS Tennis? 

KM: As I started to get really deep into tennis, I read about Arthur Ashe. I got an opportunity to meet him, and the grace and character that he carried himself with and the way he used tennis as a platform are qualities that I admire. Today, I hope to do the same thing: to inspire youth to use tennis as a platform to earn a college education.  

BC: Where does “champions adjust” come from? 

KM: Doing the work that I do in Chicago, there are a lot of hurdles and a lot of challenges. Billie Jean King always told me that “champions adjust.” There’s always an obstacle that’s going to be put in front of you, and as you keep working through them, you eventually get there. It’s very similar in tennis matches. No one’s ever played a perfect match, but as long as you continue to make adjustments and be present, that hopefully wins you the match.  

BC: What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?  

KM: The before and after. Whether it’s a child who walks into XS at eight years old and leaves at 18 with a college scholarship, or a professional player that starts at 44 and ends up number three in the world.  

BC: What’s your skincare routine?  

KM: It varies, because I spend a lot of time on the road and in hotels (but I try never to use the hotel soap on my face). I groom enthusiastically because in my profession it’s important that you always put your best foot and face forward. I want to make sure that the first impression is always a positive one. 

BC: Why are you a Counterman? 

KM: I am a Counterman because I am involved in an industry that doesn’t have a lot of people that look like me, and my charge is to make the environment one that is more welcoming for people like myself. 

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