Main Street WIRE Community Column: New York Junior Tennis and Learning by Joyce M. Short
Every winter, like clockwork, New York Junior Tennis and Learning (NYJTL) gears up for its free, early morning program at the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. So why should kids ages five through 18 wake up at the ungodly hour of 6am to play tennis? Very simply, because it will help them succeed in life!
To participate in NYJTL programs, no pre-registration or equipment is needed, just sneakers and a smile! Parents can register their children at any time during the season by simply showing up during play hours and completing the registration form at the site.NYJTL is a city-wide program that brings tennis instruction and play to approximately 75,000 New York City children each year. It was founded by US Open and Wimbledon Champion Arthur Ashe along with the owner of the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club, Skip Hartman. NYJTL provides a pathway for advancement in education, and tennis to children at all levels, from beginner to professional. Hundreds of Roosevelt Island children have participated in the program each year for the past 28 years, with three seasons per year: winter, spring and summer. Those who demonstrate strong leadership skills can become paid interns, receiving training to pass along their skills to the upcoming players.
Some of our participants will grow up to play at colleges and universities around the country. Jordan Selig, who began playing on Roosevelt Island, was selected for the NYJTL Tournament Team and is now the captain of his team at Cooper Union College. Some will simply benefit from the fitness, friendships and discipline that the program provides. But our coaches will help each and every child develop a lifetime of character, one point at a time.
As the Site Director, I’m truly blessed with a wonderful staff. Each one exemplifies the positive impact that children derive from the program. They all began as participants and became mentors and role models for your children, our future stars.
Gabriella Sunderland has played tennis with NYJTL for three years. She started as a complete novice. Currently a senior at Bard High School, Early College, she plays first singles and is the captain of her school team. Gabby began teaching as an intern last year and is back for her fourth season. She says, “I teach tennis in order to help children grow through active participation in a sport, and develop the positive habits and mentality that playing tennis creates.” Gabby is currently a finalist for NYJTL’s citywide Achievement Award.
Danny Langerman began playing tennis with NYJTL when he was nine years old. He’s now 19. He’s taught for the league for the past five years and is currently our Head Coach. Last year, he was awarded a Jacob Javits College Scholarship for his efforts to help society both on and off the court. Danny currently attends Baruch College, where he is majoring in International Business. In addition to speaking English, Russian, and Spanish, he plans to study Italian. Danny has uncommon patience and is a crowd favorite with our littlest players for good reasons!
Coney Bank has played tennis with NYJTL for 11 years! She has coached for one-and-a-half years. Before doing so, she volunteered for 200 hours with the league. She loves helping younger students learn. Coney is a high school senior at Frank Sinatra School for Performing Arts. She’s the captain of the school’s tennis team. In 2015, she placed third in the (Public School Athletic League) PSAL Girls Invitational. In 2016, she placed second. She maintains a high academic average and participates in the school’s stagecraft program. Because of Coney’s infectious smile and positive attitude, she’s currently a finalist for the coveted citywide Sportsmanship Award for NYJTL.
Ayan Ahmed has taught for NYJTL for four years. He began playing at age eleven. He is currently a junior studying pharmacy sciences at Long Island University and won a Jacob Javits Scholarship through NYJTL in 2014. Ayan teaches because he loves communicating with and helping children.
Giovanny Ramos is our youngest staff member. He’s sixteen and a junior at Energy Tech High School. He began playing with NYJTL eight years ago, and his little brother and sister are following in his footsteps. He says he decided to coach because, “I want to give kids the feeling of joy and success whenever they accomplish something with their own skills.” His enthusiasm serves as a great motivator.
As for me, I’ve witnessed the tremendous boost tennis has added to the lives of so many children. My intent was not only to help develop skills, fitness, and character in our children, but to ensure the continuance of the program. I believe in the old adage; when you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day; when you teach them to fish, you feed them for a lifetime and when you teach them to teach others to fish, you can feed a village and beyond.
I’m honored to be part of that growth.
The NYJTL winter program is supported by the generosity of New York City Council and Council Member Ben Kallos. If you’d like to thank him for his efforts, please stop by the club on Saturday, November 19 at 7 am, when he’ll be playing with us and having breakfast with our kids. Breakfast is a regular event at our site with the cooperation of NYJTL parents.
This year, our winter season begins on Saturday, November 12 at the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club. Our program hours are 6-8am on Saturdays and Sundays until the end of March. For more information about NYJTL, visit www.nyjtl.org.