As Roland Garros kicks off a new season in Paris with the best in tennis, fans keep an eye open for the new talent hitting the courts. Players as young as 16 years old have competed with the champions at the French Open, one of the world’s greatest tennis tournaments. Nina Urman knows what it takes for these young athletes to reach these ranks and she also understands how it feels to savor victory or feel a crushing defeat. Despite the rigid training, the former tennis star says that when her sports journey ended, she was not prepared for life off the courts.
Russian-born Nina became a tennis professional at the age of 15. She trained hard, facing tough competition and high expectations wherever she competed. Her athletic drive was matched by her academic studies in Paris, France. Yet, the expatriate mother of two says true fulfillment in her life came later in life as an “energy coach” for women willing to turn themselves “InsideOut”.
INSPIRELLE asked Nina Urman to share how her pursuit of lifelong happiness led her to take a deeper look at herself.
Nina, how young were you when you began to hit the professional tennis courts and what did it take to get there?
I started tennis at the age of 9 when my parents and I moved from Siberia, Russia to the German/French border. At the age of 12, I was selected for the German National team and at the age of 15 I quit school and moved to Florida to train at the Bolletieri tennis academy. I would say this is when my professional career began, as the sport became my primary focus for the next 5-6 years.
What did it take? Mental and physical commitment, discipline and good trainers to work with. I think the environment you are in counts a lot, as well as how much you love competition.
Each year, the French Open reveals the talent of new, young tennis players on the courts. When you see teenagers competing at high-level competitions in foreign countries, how do you think they are coping with the pressure and expectations?
Pressure and expectations from the outside world were part of my everyday life during my tennis journey. When I see a teenager competing in professional sports, I strongly resonate with what they are going through and I wonder if it is any different for them.
I came to understand that even if we seem so very different on the outside, on the inside we all crave the same things: love, connection, recognition, peace and true happiness. So I just hope their inner worlds align with the outer ones.
Did you enjoy being a professional tennis player at such a young age?
This is a tough question for me. True enjoyment is something I only discovered relatively recently. Growing up, my life was more about achieving a goal, hitting targets and being the best at what I do. Not only in tennis by the way. I was one of the first ones in my class, graduated from great schools and universities with excellent results. Only later, I came to realize that my self-worth depended on my set ideas of “winning” and “losing”. When I allowed myself to BE more and DO less, I was able to free myself from a lot of the baggage I was carrying on my shoulders and truly ENJOY life in the NOW.
Does high-level competitive sports strengthen or suppress the inner self?
I believe it actually can do both. It all depends on your level of self-awareness and your perception.
Inner strength comes from within not from the sport itself. It is not what happens to you that defines you, but how you choose to respond to it.
High-level competitions push us to the extreme, both physically and mentally. It takes commitment and discipline to compete at the top. So how you respond to that level of pressure and how much you actually enjoy or even love the game, will have a direct impact on your inner self.
Having achieved so much at such a young age, were you prepared for the next chapter in your life?
When I officially refocused on my studies, I remember feeling a sense of loss or failure, like I was abandoning an important part of myself.
But the truth is we create our own reality, we write our own script and I chose to take a positive spin on it and move forward with grace and joy. My tennis journey has taught me so much and I can now use these skills and knowledge to find my own balance for the life chapters to come.
What lead you to become a life coach for women?
I have always been interested in the human being and what it takes to achieve long-lasting happiness, balance and harmony. In my search for my own professional and personal purpose, I have studied many subjects from theater and communications to social studies and psychology to finances and International relations… but most importantly I studied myself.
I truly believe that the greatest project you will ever work on is YOU.
For so many years during my tennis journey, I lived life from the outside in, trying to fit in, to stand out, to become someone (else) only to find out that the answers I was looking for were within me all along.
My work today is about connection, about elevating the consciousness of others around me. It is about the energy I bring to every interaction. The InsideOut journey has helped me to become a better daughter, wife, mother, friend and facilitator. I am so grateful to be able to share my experiences and create safe environments for people to do the same.
Tell us about InsideOut and the comforting community you create for women to share their experiences.
When I created InsideOut Circles here in Paris my mission crystalized itself to:
- Create a community of conscious women leaders leading from within
- Elevate the level of collective consciousness for a better world through self-awareness and connection
We regularly meet in circles to share insight and experiences on different topics around living in the highest expressions of ourselves and positively impacting the people around us. (Topics include mindfulness, conscious parenting, heart-centered business, emotional and physical health, spiritual practices and so on…)
The InsideOut community has grown beautifully over the last few years and I am beyond grateful to facilitate and speak to women from all around the world.
As a German-Russian working mother living in Paris, do you find that expatriate women have particular challenges and needs?
When I came to Paris, I was a student studying Finance and International Relations on a scholarship program. My biggest challenge then was to pay my rent and to make sure I had good grades. It was easy to integrate into the colorful and fairly open student community.
Eight years later, I have a husband, 2 young children and 4 step-children along with InsideOut, and many other projects I am working on. As an expat “mompreneur”, my greatest needs were to ground myself, to fully integrate and feel at home. I spoke French when I arrived and it made things a lot easier, but I soon realized that was not enough. You need some time to understand the very particular French system, the way of life, the traditions and rituals. My advice is to be openhearted, learn, experience and stay true to yourself.
As Joseph Campell said : “The privilege of a lifetime is becoming who you are .”
This stands true in France or anywhere else in the world.
Do you believe a woman can “reinvent” herself? How does she make changes in her life?
I believe we all have the capacity to constantly reinvent ourselves.
When people come to me for guidance they often ask: How can I attract more love, more peace, more stability, more balance in my life? How can I have a better experience in life?
My answer to that is to change your life you have to change your vibration. And to change your vibration, you need to look within and reconnect with your true desires and needs. Once you know and feel in your heart who you are and what your purpose is, you will easily reinvent yourself on every level. Life is as simple as you make it.
What brings you the greatest joy today, Nina?
My greatest joy today is to spend quality time with my family and friends, to have deep soulful conversations with people I love and to be in the present moment. I also enjoy more and more being on my own and reconnecting with my body. By listening within, I can hear and find the answers with clarity and peace. Also, traveling the world to experience new cultures and languages is one of my greatest passions.