The February Racket

Inaugural Tennis For America VISTA fellows

NYJTL is proud to announce that we are one of the six nationally recognized organizations who will work together with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) to help address the issues of poverty through tennis in the United States. We are looking for three recent college graduates or seniors to be Tennis for America VISTA fellows to work with New York Junior Tennis & Learning and the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Education from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.

Recent graduates or seniors will have the opportunity to work with under-resourced children in NYJTL sites in one of the five boroughs and to help NYJTL carry out its mission to develop the character of young people through tennis and education for a lifetime of success on and off the court.

Applications are open until February 29, 2020

The Loss of an Idol

The students of Icahn Charter School 2 got the opportunity to meet Kobe Bryant on August 29, 2019.  The kids had an opportunity to play tennis with him, and were saddened to hear that he is no longer with us.

See the tribute the students of Icahn 2 made for him.

Mentoring Month

Mentoring is at the forefront of the NYJTL mission, and we believe that NYC youth deserve the opportunity to be guided thoughtfully, and we are confident that the life skills gained through our programs can provide a powerful catalyst for long-term achievement. York Chu, retired Senior Director of Tennis Programs, has been an amazing mentor to our kids!

SAT Prep

Prepare for the June SAT test! Classes run from February 29 through May 31 and are offered on Saturday OR Sunday. Our qualified tutors will help you prepare for the exam!

There is still time to register!

Up Next:

  • NY Open, February 9-16.  Get your tickets here.
  • ACES President’s Cup Tournament, February 17-21.
  • CTP Boys and Girls Presidents’ Week Doubles, February 18-20.
  • Mixed Doubles Round Robin, February 28.
  • SAT Prep, February 29 – May 31.

What We’re Reading:

Inaugural Tennis For America Program

NYJTL is proud to announce that it is one of the six nationally recognized organizations who will work in conjunction with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) to help address the issues of poverty through tennis in the United States.  NYJTL is looking for three recent college graduates or current seniors to fill positions with New York Junior Tennis & Learning and the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Education from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. Recent graduates or seniors will have the opportunity to work with under-resourced children in one of the five boroughs and to help NYJTL carry out its mission to develop the character of young people through tennis and education for a lifetime of success on and off the court.

Why should you apply to be a Tennis for America Fellow?

If you believe in making a difference and don’t back down from a challenge, then this program is for you!  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a part in making a difference in the lives of NYC youth through tennis.  Whether you want to learn more about nonprofits, get a better understanding of the tennis industry, or make life-long connections, then this is the program for you. 


  • VISTA Living Allowance
  • Each VISTA member gets to choose an end of service benefit: A cash payout of $1,800 or an education award of $6,195
  • Housing
  • Relocation Stipend – $750 + .24 cent per mile for those relocating more than 50 miles from partnering site
  • Mileage assistance or bus/train monthly pass
  • Orientation/Professional Development – Phoenix, Arizona (June 1-5)
  • Continuing Education – ITA College Coaches Convention, Naples, Florida (December 2020), with all expenses paid by ITA
  • Graduation Ceremony – US Open (August 2021), with all expenses paid by ITA
  • Individual Mentor
  • The development of a strong network of Tennis For America colleagues to offer support during the year of service and for many years afterwards
  • Exposure to and experience with critical 21st century skills, including: non-profit strategy, teaching, problem solving and communication skills
  • Networking opportunities and collaboration with a large range of stakeholders.

What are the requirements to apply?

  • Graduating from an ITA Member Institution in May, 2020 or have graduated form an ITA member institution anytime in 2019 or 2018
  • At least 21 years old by June 1st, 2020
  • Member of a Competitive Tennis Team at NCAA D I, D II, D III or NAIA ITA member program for a minimum of two years (current or former Tennis on Campus team members are eligible to apply)
  • U.S. citizen or national or lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder)
  • Available for a full year of service from June 1st, 2020 to May, 31st, 2021 
  • Able to pass all necessary background checks and clearances to work with children under the age of 18

If you think this is the program for you then read more about the exciting pilot project and submit your application here.

My Philosophy on Coaching High Performance Juniors

Coach Ahsha Rolle believes that the best way to develop high performance junior players is “to analyze their personality, body type, athletic ability, and natural attributes.  Analyzing these qualities helps me break down the appropriate game style that would be suited for the specific player and gives me the ability to guide and craft his or her game”.

In the January – February 2020 issue of New York Tennis Magazine, Coach Ahsha Rolle discusses the different methods that she uses to help juniors develop their skills and her experience coaching Stephanie Yakoff at the Orange Bowl and Winter Nationals!

Click here and go to page 60 to read the article.

What Does Mentoring Mean To NYJTL?

According to MENTOR, The National Mentoring Partnership, “Young adults who had mentors speak highly of these relationships. They offer that their mentors help them stay on track in school, make good choices, and provide consistent support”.  At NYJTL’s core we believe in developing the character of young people through tennis and education for a lifetime of success on and off the court. Mentoring is at the forefront of what we do, and we believe that every child in New York City deserves the opportunity to be guided thoughtfully, and we are confident that the life skills gained through our programs can provide a powerful catalyst for long-term achievement.  Whether that means helping a child with their homework through our ACES Afterschool Program, or incorporating physical activity through tennis in our Community Tennis Program, or even having a child participate in our Serve & Connect Program so that NYPD 42nd Precinct officers can create life long relationships and mentor kids.  

Founded in 1971, NYJTL is active in every borough of New York City, operates in all 51 NYC Council Districts and providing free access to tennis in schools, community centers, and on playgrounds year round reaching 85,000 K-12 youth throughout NYC.  Our Community Tennis Program, which has mentored and served thousands of children over the years, creates a safe environment for children to learn the sport of a lifetime that instills teamwork, stamina, grit, and persistence. Our dedicated coaches, many of them NYJTL alumni, are committed to teaching tennis to the youth of NYC, for example Coach Gaetan said, “Mentoring kids is important because growing minds often need guidance.  I’m drawn to mentoring kids because my mentor growing up was very influential in making me the person I am today. My mentor was Scott Daly (NYJTL Senior Director, Community Tennis). I work for NYJTL because it’s given me so much as a growing teen that the least I can do is pay it forward to the next generation”. Coach Gaetan has impacted the lives of many children, but especially Allycia Santa-Cruz, a sophomore at Bard Early College High School.  Allycia said “To me, Gaetan is not only a mentor, but a friend, a father figure and also just a cool dude I met two years ago. He’s made tennis become more meaningful, which nourished my love of the game. I’m always making time for tennis, whether it’s a school night or six in the morning on weekends. Starting the summer program with him not only helped me become a better tennis player, but become a better person”. NYJTL looks forward to continuing to foster and mentor the youth of New York City through tennis, education, healthy living and character development programs.

Meet Christopher and Isis, the Recipients of the 2019 Leadership Luncheon Student Awards

Last year’s Leadership Luncheon was held at the Metropolitan Club on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.  Tommy Hilfiger, Andrea Jaeger, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands served as honorees, and Christopher Perez and Isis Rodriguez won the student awards.

Christopher Perez – Recipient of the Seymour Propp Achievement Award

The Seymour Propp Achievement Award recognizes an exemplary student who has demonstrated growth in tennis and life skills during their participation with NYJTL, particularly in the Intensive Training Program. 

The availability of free tennis lessons introduced Christopher to a sport that now plays a central part in his life.  Christopher takes two buses to get to the Cary Leeds Center each day, and despite the long commute, he began showing up for every possible opportunity to play.  He quickly improved, getting accepted into the Intensive Training Program and then eventually the Tournament Team. He played in the 2019 NYJTL Mayor’s Cup presented by Disney and joined his high school tennis team, earning the Varsity MVP award the last three years.  In his spare time, Christopher also coaches at the Crotona Park Community Tennis Program site to inspire the next generation to discover the sport that he loves so much.

Christopher’s passion for tennis has taught him valuable life skills that he applies off the court and in the classroom.  Juggling school, tennis team practice, getting to the Cary Leeds Center a few times a week, and competing in tennis tournaments takes commitment and time management skills.  Christopher told us, “Tennis has become apart of me and is not just something I can leave behind”. With his applications submitted, he is now anxiously awaiting college acceptances. 

Isis Rodriguez – Recipient of NYJTL Sportsmanship Award

The NYJTL Sportsmanship Award recognizes a student who shows great character and sportsmanship, as evaluated by NYJTL coaches, mentors, and educators.  The winner demonstrates the ability to make all feel welcome on and off the court, win or lose with grace, and serves as a role model for conduct and integrity.  

Tennis has given Isis the opportunity to break out of her shell.  She credits the sport and NYJTL’s ACES Afterschool Program for helping her find herself, and sparking an interest and passion she didn’t know she had.  Once extremely shy and afraid to speak, tennis ultimately gave Isis the confidence to improve her skills, take risks, and gain confidence in herself. Isis is a leader on and off the court, winning decisive matches for her team and supporting and encouraging her teammates from the sidelines.  Her spirit is infectious: her mom noticed the change, her teammates noticed, and NYJTL noticed. Isis was named the captain of her ACES Afterschool tennis team last year and led them to victory in the elementary team division at the 2019 NYJTL Mayor’s Cup presented by Disney.

Isis’s transformation through tennis translated to success in school as well.  Her classmates started seeing her confidence in the classroom. Although Isis’s middle school does not have an ACES Afterschool Program, she and her mom made a plan to further her success through a local Community Tennis Program, where she can continue making great strides in her tennis and character development.

The January Racket

Goodbye 2019, 2020 Here We Come!

This past year, NYJTL created many learning opportunities for NYC youth, from providing SAT prep classes to building a community bond with the NYPD 42nd Precinct. In addition, NYJTL Capstone Events enriched the youth education experience with non-traditional forms of learning outside the classroom designed to get kids on their feet. These events included our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Expo, Visual Arts Showcase, and Youth Leadership Summit, among others.

NYJTL believes that the life skills gained through our tennis and education programs are a catalyst for long-term achievement! Every program, activity and event is designed to enable under-resourced children in New York City to grow with the game and to set them on a pathway of success.

Looking Back – 2019

We coordinated with Nike to give five NYJTL girls the chance of a lifetime to meet Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys, Simona Halep, and Sloane Stephens during Nike’s Queens of the Future event.  The inaugural NYJTL Bronx Open afforded 85 NYJTL kids the chance to get up close and personal with the world’s best professional tennis players as ball kids.

Our flagship, The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning greeted more than 15,000 guests through their doors this year and hosted the NYJTL Mayor’s Cup, the NY Empires, the NYJTL Bronx Open, and the US Open Junior Qualifying Tournament, on top of dozens of local and national junior tournaments.  The Cary Leeds Center welcomed First Book and Disney to distribute 20,000 free books to the community and partnered with Tie Break Tens to host a tiebreak tournament and fly out eight lucky juniors to the BNP Paribas Tournament in Indian Wells.

Looking Ahead – 2020

NYJTL is thankful to work with the NY Open again this year to bring our ACES and Community Tennis Program children to see world-class tennis at this 250k International men’s tournament!

Meet One of Our Kids! 

Meet 11-year-old Rachel Breland (third from the left), the Community Tennis Program’s Holiday Tournament 14s winner!  Rachel’s three older brothers also played in CTP and are now coaches. Rachel plays year-round in our CTP program and has shown incredible growth both on and off the court.

Take two minutes to see our 2019 highlight slideshow featuring NYJTL kids!

Take a deeper dive and view this year’s Annual Report to learn more about how NYJTL enables kids to Grow With The Game!

Up Next:

What We’re Reading: