Few things thrill Joyce Short more than watching the kids she coaches at the Roosevelt Island Community Tennis Program learn and grow. But there’s added significance for her when she sees girls, in particular, excel.
Joyce grew up before the 1972 Title IX legislation created equal opportunities for girls to participate in sports. She played tennis and competed in citywide tournaments as a one- and three-meter springboard diver in her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. She was the City Champion in the 16-and-under category. But her high school had no varsity teams for girls. As a University of Georgia co-ed, she was only allowed to use the diving board in the “men’s pool,” two hours per week.
Today, Joyce relishes the opportunity to be a role model for all young people, but especially girls. “I hope that the fact that I’m here coaching as a female athlete will speak volumes to them about their potential,” she says.
So it’s no surprise that even with a busy career in the business world – which included a position as Salomon Brothers’ first ever female bond trader – she has continually made time to coach youth sports.
In 1988, she was coaching a little league team and giving private tennis lessons when a youngster on Roosevelt Island asked her to start a youth program. She agreed, and the next day he came back with 35 of his friends, eager to learn the game.
Two years later, Skip Hartman opened the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club and enlisted her to create a NYJTL program. Every year since, Joyce has directed the club’s NYJTL winter program, and has run the other seasonal programs as often as her other job responsibilities have allowed.
For the most part, she says, the kids today are the same as they have always been, with one noticeable difference: “With the Internet and cable TV, they now follow professional tennis a lot more, which is great because it makes them even more motivated to play.”
Joyce’s current role is wide ranging. As the Site Director, she manages a staff of three, creates the curriculum, and instructs youngsters who come to the program from all over the city at 6:00am on Saturdays and Sundays. As NYJTL’s District Developer for Manhattan and Eastern Queens, she recruits schools and helps them to incorporate tennis into their physical education curriculums.
“If we can get kids bitten by the tennis bug while we have a captive audience in school gyms, there’s a better chance they’ll be motivated to come out and participate in the programming that will enable them to build their skills and become lifelong players,” she says.
Despite her many responsibilities, Joyce always makes sure to have time on the court, teaching the game that she has loved for over sixty years to the next generation of players.
“We teach the kids tennis, but also skills that they can apply in the real world,” Joyce says. “In a sense, we’re building character one point at a time.”