Charity Work And a Plant-Friendly Diet Keeps This Tennis Ace Going

|Updated Mar 12, 2021

Sloane Stephens has had as bad a year as anyone, losing three close family members to the coronavirus in the weeks leading up to the Australian Open, where she was eliminated in the first round. Wanting to hit pause would be understandable for any mere mortal, but Stephens is keeping going, fueled by a passion for giving back and helping others, even after losing an aunt, grandmother, and her biggest fan, her grandfather, all in quick succession.

What is most remarkable about Stephens is not just her strength, stamina, and a weaponlike forehand that helped her win the US Open and a total of six WTA titles. It's that she is continuing to help others through her growing foundation, the Sloane Stephens Foundation, and bringing underserved students from Compton, CA. to her beloved sport, through programs that help educate and support the emotional lives of some 6,000 students in grades K through 12. The foundation was recently backed by SAP, the business solutions company, and while Stephens would have every right to take a step back instead this year sees her leaning into her charity work and her training, and also investing in a plant-based food company as a logical next step to her own personal commitment to eating a plant-friendly diet. She has been eating more plant proteins these days, since as she explains, "keeping it simple" is the secret to her training and fueling-up success.

She continues to set new goals for her charity work, through her Sloan Stephens Foundation, which provides access to tennis education and social and emotional support to over 6,000 students in Compton, CA. (It's now supported by global business solutions provider SAP.)  And she has taken on a new endeavor: investing and partnering with plant-based protein bar company, Quantum Energy Squares.

We caught up with Stephens, 27, following her emotional appearance at the Australia Open. She tweeted a heartbreaking revelation that she lost three close family members to the coronavirus in the weeks before matchplay started, including her aunt, grandmother, and her beloved grandfather, who was her biggest supporter, she wrote in the heartbreaking tweet.

We talked to Stephens about her approach to fueling up on plant-protein sources, since she is one of the top plant-forward players, along with Novak Djokovic, on the tour. She shared how she stays motivated, even during a particularly difficult year for her family, and how she is continuing on her quest to make the world a better place through social justice advocacy and her philanthropic work.

Sloane Stephens on Her Plant-Friendly Diet and What Gives Her Motivation Now

The Beet: Many of us set goals this year to get in shape and eat a more plant-friendly diet. As an athlete, you have incredible drive and discipline—what are some tips or philosophies used in sports that people can apply to their everyday life?

Sloane Stephens: My two key tips for any reader are to keep showing up, and to find a support team. Don’t put pressure on yourself to go from 0 to 100 — start slowly with an activity you like, and keep moving.

Some days you may not feel like exercising, but try to remind yourself that you’re doing something great for your future self and I guarantee you’ll feel amazing after. This is where building up your support system is a gamechanger. Find that friend and have them be your accountability buddy, text them, and get hyped up for each other's wins. We all need that positive energy and love!

The Beet: You recently invested in Quantum. Why them, and why specifically a plant-based bar?

Sloane Stephens: I’ve been an avid consumer of Quantum Energy Squares since 2019, and my transition into an investor and advisor was a natural progression of my love of this product and belief in the team. Quantum’s team is stacked with a food scientist, sports nutritionist, and a pastry chef, and the result is bars that taste good and are good for you. I look forward to supporting their growth for years to come.

I like to keep my diet simple, so choosing a plant-based bar where the ingredient list is transparent and explained on the website is meaningful. Each bar has 10g of plant-based protein from pea and pumpkin seeds, which feels gentler on my body.

The Beet: This year you competed at the Australian Open. What was your go-to pre-game fuel—and other plant-based staples in your life?

Sloane Stephens: My diet has shifted towards plant-based as I’ve focused more on the best options for optimal health and performance. I love adding pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds to meals or having them as snacks. I always focus on building salads with veggies specific to my performance needs.

I keep things consistent and simple. Since I’ve been on the tour for a while, I have my go-to restaurants and routine in each city. My exact match day routine depends on when my match is scheduled, but I’ll usually eat one Quantum Energy Square—the Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip bars from them are a must-have—before my match to get that slow-burn energy and macros to keep me fueled no matter how long I’m on the court.

The Beet: You are amongst a group of Black women on the tennis tour, and you have effectively used your platform to bring awareness to racial injustice. Will you continue to use your platform for continued awareness, and are there other issues/topics—be it racial injustice or others—you are passionate about and more people should be aware of?

Sloane Stephens: I feel a strong sense of responsibility to educate and advocate on social justice topics and issues that are important to me. If I share a resource and it encourages a conversation or perspective shift in someone, that’s powerful. I’m all about providing people with access and putting the information out there and will continue to do so.

A silver lining of 2020 was being able to spend more time working on my foundation. I’m incredibly passionate about my work in Compton, Calif. which focuses on tennis and educational support in 25 schools throughout the district. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color, and I’m committed to helping our incredible students combat learning loss and thrive. I invite your readers to follow us on social media and check out our website for more information.