South LA

40 Love Foundation is ‘serving’ the future of young athletes

40 Love Foundation provides access to tennis training and mentorship for children in South L.A.

Students of 40 Love Foundation show off their tennis rackets on the court.

The tennis courts were Doris Obih’s safe haven while growing up in Inglewood, but when she was 12 years old, she was forced to give up the sport that she loved.

When Obih began her tennis training at age 7, an organization called HOPE FOR KIDS financially supported her passion, covering lesson costs, tournament and equipment fees and granting her access to highly skilled coaches that helped her flourish in the sport. But when the organization disappeared, she was left without the proper resources to continue on her athletic track.

In 2016, Obih founded the 40 Love Foundation in hopes that no child would face the heartbreak she did. Held at the courts where she first learned to play, the foundation has helped over 800 student athletes in South L.A. receive tennis training and mentorship at a minimal cost.

“I didn’t want a child to feel like me growing up: having something that you love so much, and not being able to continue it because you didn’t have the money for it,” Obih said.

Aside from her familiarity with the sport, Obih chose tennis training for the foundation rather than team sports such as basketball or football so that students could learn the benefits of tackling an individual sport. The game relies on the player to carry their weight, a skill that is valuable both on and off the court.

“When you’re in a real tournament, you can’t be coached. It’s up to you to uplift yourself and to get out of the funk,” Obih said. “No one can live your life for you. So what happens when things get bad or you become sad or things are not working your way? Who motivates you? You have to. That’s why I love tennis.”

What sets 40 Love apart from other sports programs is its commitment to mentoring students in both athletic and academic performance. In addition to adding in homework breaks between rallies, guest speakers ranging from basketball players to app developers visit the courts to open students’ eyes to future opportunities outside of tennis.

“We’re in Inglewood. The system out here is not matched with Brentwood or UCLA, so we have to kind of bridge the gap between that,” Obih said. “Having an educational program and learning things that you don’t learn in school like financial literacy, time management, it just goes hand in hand.”

Obih’s main goal is to provide her students with training that can grant them a scholarship to college. Tennis pro LeGeorge Mauldin offers all students the tools to succeed in the sport and specifically guides older student athletes through the sport’s scholarship process.

“Mainly all our kids are straight-A students. It’s just on the tennis end where they need that help and information, which is something the parents may not know,” Mauldin said.

Connor Davis, son of 40 Love tennis pro Terry Davis, has returned to the program as a junior coach to mentor a new class of 40 Love students.

“I want to be ambitious with Doris because I saw the program get developed when I was a kid,” Davis said. “I want to give as much back as she gave to me.”

Above all, Obih’s organization represents a safe space for students to rise above the challenges within their community.

“If you don’t grow up in it, you won’t understand it,” Obih said. “To have an outlet for a child to have a second chance or have a better start when it comes to bridging the gap on opportunities – That’s what I’m here for.”