New York (May 15) –With two new stadium courts seating more than 800 at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning, New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) will welcome fans and supporters with free admission to the Mayor’s Cup All-Scholastic Tennis Championships from June 1 – 11.
“The Mayor’s Cup is the largest interscholastic tennis tournament in the nation,” said NYJTL co-founder and Cary Leeds Center General Manager Skip Hartman, who created the tournament in 1988. “It is a unique event because it offers interleague competition for teams and individuals from public, private, and parochial leagues from throughout the New York metropolitan area.”
With nearly 600 entries from elementary, middle school, and high schools, the Mayor’s Cup includes 14 different individual and team events.
“The Mayor’s Cup represents what NYJTL is all about— bringing all the children of NYC together to learn valuable life skills on the court and seeing kids grow with the game of tennis from elementary school through their senior year in high school,” said NYJTL President and CEO, George Guimaraes.
The Mayor’s Cup finals will be played on June 11 on the Victor Kiam and Pershing Square Stadium Courts, which were dedicated on April 9 in an opening ceremony attended by former Mayor David Dinkins, who has been a constant supporter of the Mayor’s Cup.
“This year we will have a special celebration with entertainment to commemorate the official opening of the new stadiums,” said Mayor’s Cup tournament director Pam Glick.
Student athletes who are interested in participating in this year’s event may apply at http://www.nyjtl.org/events/2017mayors-cup/.
Schedule of play for the week will be posted at nyjtl.org/events/mayors-cup.
About New York Junior Tennis & Learning
NYJTL was founded in 1971 (then, as New York Junior Tennis League) by Arthur Ashe and Chairman Emeritus Lewis “Skip” Hartman. NYJTL’s mission is to develop the character of young people through tennis and education for a lifetime of success on and off the court. Through tennis, academic enrichment, healthy living, and character development programs, NYJTL teaches life skills to 75,000 underserved youth throughout all of New York City. The experience and culture of tennis, along with academic support services, have helped hundreds of thousands of young people improve their performance in school and raise their aspirations, inspiring success both on and off the court. Learn more at www.nyjtl.org
Contact: Joe Ceriello – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tennis wasn’t the first sport Hector Henry fell in love with, nor the second. As a child in Jamaica in the 1940’s he and his friends spent many long hours playing cricket and soccer. He was even so gifted at soccer that he earned a spot on the Jamaican national team and later went on to play semi-professionally in the United States.
“In Jamaica, at that time, tennis was an upper class sport,” Henry explains. “But when I moved to the States, more people were playing it here.”
With his soccer career behind him, Henry enrolled at Brooklyn College and competed on the tennis team. After graduating, he coached the school’s men’s and women’s teams from 1983 to 1992, as well as several professional Jamaican players.
Two of the first things he noticed about tennis were parallels with the games he grew up with. The groundstrokes were similar to swinging a cricket bat and the running reminded him of soccer. His athleticism translated from the field to the court.
In the early 1990’s be began his NYJTL tenure, shifting his focus from elite professionals to youth players. For the last 17 years, he has been the director of NYJTL’s Linden Park site in Brooklyn, which currently serves 162 kids, ages 5 to 18, from all different skill levels, including special education students. During the winter, he directs NYJTL’s Early Morning Winter Program at the Heights Casino indoor courts in Brooklyn Heights.
“Because of my experience, I work a lot with the advanced and intermediate groups, and some of them have metro rankings,” Henry says. “But we also teach beginners whose parents just want them doing something constructive.”
Located in East New York, NYJTL’s Linden Park program attracts many low- and middle-income families from diverse backgrounds, including African, Caribbean, Hispanic and Asian.
“It’s a challenge to compete with the most popular sports like soccer, basketball and football,” Henry says. “But tennis is becoming more accessible to kids and NYJTL has done a wonderful job bringing it to communities like this.”
Henry notes the recent growth in the program among his youngest group (5- to 9-year-olds) and Hispanic youth. “It’s tied to Nadal’s success,” he says. “He’s an exciting player and they want to be like him.”
On a recent afternoon, one of Henry’s former NYJTL players stopped by Linden Park to visit. She was one of the dozens of players who earned a college scholarship thanks, in part, to his coaching. Those are the successes that make him most proud. “It’s a wonderful thing,” he says with a smile.
Maria Sanz has been both a student of New York Junior Tennis & Learning and a teacher to young students picking up a racket for the first time.
Based on the suggestion from her softball coach, Maria joined one of NYJTL’s free community tennis programs near her home in the Rockaways when she was 10 years old. She immediately developed a strong love for the sport.
“I fell in love the first time I picked up a racket,” she says. “I kept making new friends and I liked playing tennis.”
Thirteen years later, you can find Maria serving as an NYJTL tennis specialist at PS 42 in Far Rockaway, about two miles from her home. A 2013 graduate of Brooklyn College with a degree in Psychology, she has worked with the nonprofit since 2009.
Maria is an avid athlete. She has played softball throughout her life and can still be spotted on weekends in center field. She also works out, runs and enjoys bowling.
Back in 2009 she suffered an injury that sidelined her from softball and during that time she reconnected with tennis. It was a blessing in disguise. Maria went on to play tennis for four years at Brooklyn College. During that time she served as Captain and CUNYAC All-Star for three years. In 2013 she won the CUNYAC Sportsmanship Award and was an Arthur Ashe Sports Scholar.
Maria now works with about 90 students from kindergarten to fifth grade at PS 42, teaching them about teamwork and good sportsmanship. “They do a lot of work with partners so they learn to work with each other and help each other out,” she says.
She most enjoys seeing them progress – as players and as persons. She says, “Sometimes they may not be able to hit the ball at all or consistently, but then they return and they are able to do something they were not able to before!”
Beginning May 30, over 600 boys and girls from across New York City will compete in the nation’s largest scholastic tennis event: NYJTL’s 27th Annual Mayors Cup All-Scholastic Championship. Eight of those young players attend PS 100 in the Bronx, where they’ve learned the game under the tutelage of NYJTL Activity Specialist Jeff Lawrence.
A native of the Soundview section of the Bronx, Jeff began playing tennis at age 13, when he joined NYJTL’s community program at the Bronx International Youth Tennis Center.
“I liked tennis immediately,” he says. “My coaches showed me the ropes and they were really positive. Some of them are still at NYJTL today, which is cool.”
Jeff went on to play varsity tennis at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx, and attended Lehman College. But NYJTL was never far from his heart. He began working with kids in the summer program at Bronx International, and then became an assistant coach in the afterschool Aces Club program at PS 100.
Today, as an Activity Specialist, he teaches tennis, healthy living skills, science and literacy, and more to over 100 first-through-fifth-graders each year, including the 21 students who participate on the school’s tournament team. From that group, the top eight players will compete in this year’s Mayors Cup – and that means extra practice. To prepare for the tournament, Jeff has been taking the players to the spot where he first fell in love with tennis, Bronx International, for weekend practice sessions.
“At this point, we’re working on things like technique, positioning and strategy,” he says. “Our top three players want to win the Mayors Cup. For the others, the main goal is to get some good experience.”
While he enjoys coaching the tournament team, Jeff knows that tennis has an important role in the character development of all the kids he works with in the Aces Club.
“With TV and video games today, kids are used to instant gratification,” he says. “Learning how to play tennis is a process. We teach kids the importance of being patient, and not getting frustrated if they can’t do something right away.”
The Mayors Cup runs from May 30 to June 7, and will be held in two locations: the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows and at the new Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the Crotona Park in the South Bronx. For more information, click here.
Athneal Philip used to serve up meals. Now he’s serving up success.
Athneal is a tennis coach and site director at New York Junior Tennis and Learning. The Queens resident works with elementary students in the after-school ACES program at PS 215 in Gravesend, Brooklyn.
“This is an important program in New York City,” he says. “There’s lot of parents who really don’t have the finances available to be able to afford to teach their kids tennis and have them play on courts. The ACES program allows the parents to work while their kids have a place to go.”
Athneal was employed as a chef at hotels in Antigua for years, before moving to Wayne, Pennsylvania in 2001, and then New York City a year later. In Antigua, he had worked as an assistant tennis coach as well, and continued to coach in the United States.
“I love the game of tennis,” he says. “I started when I was nine years old and I’ve been playing every since.”
Athneal first started with NYJTL nine years ago, working part-time in the afternoons as a tennis coach at PS 19 in Corona, Queens. “I love to see kids play tennis, the smiles on their faces when they hit a ball over the net, especially the young ones,” he says.
Additionally, he works with NYJTL’s Community Tennis Programs, serving as a site director at the Manhattan Plaza site, and coaching at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, too. This summer, he will be at Manhattan Plaza and Brandeis High School.
He enjoys watching youngsters learn and grow in the after-school program.
“I think it’s a good program; its helps the family,” he says. “The kids are not just sitting there, but they are learning something valuable they can take with them the rest of their lives.”
And, he still enjoys cooking dishes reflecting all ethnicities. “In the Caribbean, you have to cook international dishes because you have visitors from all over the world,” he says, “so I like to cook everything.”