NYJTL Continues to Find Ways to ‘Grow with the Game’ Despite Remote Shift

Even with all of the uncertainty and difficulties that the Coronavirus has wrought, New York Junior Tennis and Learning has not lost sight of its commitment to both the kids and staff it serves.

On March 13 NYJTL suspended all of its Community Tennis Programs, Intensive Training Program, Serve & Connect and SAT Prep classes. The Cary Leeds Center, NYJTL’s flagship home, followed closely behind, closing its doors on March 16. The organization has gotten creative with online activities and training to keep its staff employed and its members engaged, however, many questions remain as to whether or not the organization will be holding a summer term and how much the city will fund it.

“Right away I liked what NYJTL was doing — giving back, helping the children in need, mentoring them,” said Anna Tatishvili, a coach at the Cary Leeds Center. “We’re working for a great cause.” 

NYJTL has continued to prove its dedication through these unprecedented times. To keep students engaged, NYJTL has taken to its social media platforms and website to create and share content, as well as keep members informed.

NYJTL’s ACES, an afterschool program that serves students across four boroughs, has spearheaded a series of videos created by all its staff, which include at-home tennis drills, workouts, art activities, and more. With help from the schools the program partners with, staff members and teachers have also been able to conduct virtual classes in real time.

The organization has created multiple pages on its website where these resources are located. These resources span topics related to food access, kid safety, emotional and mental health, education, fitness and wellness, etc. — NYJTL wants to make sure its members feel supported in all capacities during this difficult time.

Jacob Weaver, the manager of curriculum for ACES, said shifting remote has posed some challenges because the interactions between the coaches, students and their families have lost the personal touch that makes their peer mentorship so special. However, they are doing their best to maintain and nurture those ties.

Their increased media presence has allowed them to stay connected with their kids, giving them comforting messages in videos and constantly checking in with them to make sure their needs are being taken care of and that they have an outlet that they would otherwise be using tennis for.

“Our kids have been going through all kinds of emotional stresses during this, as are all the kids throughout America,” said Lorraine Rohlsen-Alexander, a CTP site director. “I build relationships with a lot of my kids so that it’s not just a person calling, I’m like a member of the family to many of them and I give them my support. That’s what I’m here for: to help them in any way that I can.”

Another one of NYJTL’s endeavors has been its Facebook and Instagram LIVES in which coaches Liezel Huber, Anna Tatishvili, and Ahsha Rolle, all former professional tennis players, discuss different aspects of tennis and interview legends of the game, some of which include Chris Evert, Andy Brandi, and Jermaine Jenkins.

Tatishvili said that even though they are doing these LIVEs to keep their kids engaged, there has been a large learning curve for everyone involved.

“It’s been incredible. When I first decided to do this I was very nervous because it was very new, but it was very interesting to talk to tennis players and to get their insight — what they think about tennis, ask them details and questions. You learn a lot — not only am I trying to give information to our audience, I’m also learning by listening to them and having them answer my questions,” said Tatishvili. “We all want to be on the tennis court, but these live videos and detailed talks with great champions have been very informative for me, and as a tennis coach I am growing just by listening to them.”

Coaches from the Community Tennis Program (CTP) division are doing some online learning of their own through virtual staff training.

To keep them employed and developing new skills, the staff is taking online certificate courses through the University of Albany Professional Development program in regards to child safety and education, completing HR modules through ADP Workforce, learning new ways to coach tennis through USTA’s Net Generation videos, viewing and creating content for its members, connecting for meetings over Zoom, and more. The organization is even considering using these resources to supplement its traditional outdoor training at the Cary Leeds Center.

And to help alleviate any stress or anxiety NYJTL staff may be experiencing, they have also been given access to services, such as counseling, through the Employee Assistance Program.

“NYJTL really has been doing everything they can for the kids and their families and the staff. We’re reaching out to the staff and teaching them employment skills and stuff like that,” said Weaver. “I feel like we’re reaching out to them just as much as we’re reaching out to the kids and their parents. A lot of them are so young and this experience has really been an opportunity to show how much NYJTL cares about their staff.”

Staff and kids alike cannot wait to take their lessons back outside and NYJTL is working to put the appropriate preparations in place for the summer if that happens.

As stated on the Cary Leeds Facebook the Center’s “top two priorities are to keep [everyone] safe, and to get [everyone] back on the tennis courts.” The center has a three phase plan prepared to gradually open once given clearance from the NYC parks department.

This clearance will also allow NYJTL to file the permits for its CTP sites.

With the help of staff input, CTP has come up with a comprehensive plan that respects social distancing should they be given the go on summer classes. This plan includes requiring all participants and coaches to wear masks, having participants stand six feet apart, mirrored teaching, allowing no participant or coach to touch another, temperature checks, constantly disinfecting and sanitizing, etc. The team also plans to have shortened class times and fewer sites that will be more heavily staffed. 

To further ensure the least amount of contact as possible, NYJTL will also have online registration for the first year.

“I can hardly wait to get on the court and hit a few balls. I can hardly wait to see all the kids and all my friends,” said Rohlsen-Alexander. “We just have to be patient and do what we’re told. We are all going through this together and we are going to come out of it together.”

However, even if given permission by the city, the extent to which NYJTL programs may run is dependent on its funding. Emphasizing the essential need for summer programming to keep kids engaged, CTP is petitioning the city for its full funding for the 2021 fiscal year under the Council’s Physical Education & Fitness Initiative.

NYJTL wrote on its Facebook page on May 21, “As parents are finally able to return to work, families will need access to free, quality childcare that summer programs offer, as well as the knowledge that their children are participating in safe, structured, engaging AND fun summer activities.”

City Council Funding has yet to be finalized for NYJTL for the upcoming fiscal year, however, Council Members continue to be enthusiastic and supportive of NYJTL’s work, said Scott Daly, senior director of Community Tennis.

Whether the organization’s endeavors remain online for the summer term or its operations are brought outside, NYJTL is keeping its students in mind.

“During these uncertain times, we want every child to know that ‘CTP is still here for you’,” said Daly.

Follow NYJTL and Cary Leeds’s websites and social media for activities and updates regarding summer programming.

By: Christina Perrier

The May Racket

Under-resourced children need your voice now more than ever. New York City is cutting vital funds for summer programs across the city, and those children most at risk need our help to ensure that they are not left behind and forgotten this summer.

Please contact your local council member and let them know how important summer programming is to you! #FundYouthNYC

Art Class with Ms. Luz

Do you or a friend love Fortnite?  Then follow along with Ms. Luz as she shows us how to draw Peely from Fortnite!

Meeting the Ball with Coach Jeff

Follow along with Coach Jeff as he teaches us hand-eye coordination and warm up drills to get our bodies ready and loose!

Pulpo Lleno de Emociones

Crear un pulo que represente sus emociones! Usar papel, marcadores, y las tijeras!

Planks with Coach Danny

Work with Coach Danny to strengthen your core and straighten your posture by doing planks!

Self-inflating Balloon

Can you make a balloon inflate on its own? Learn with Mr. Kemal how you can make a balloon self-inflate with baking soda!

CTP Tennis Lesson of the Week

Introducing our digital tennis lessons brought to you by our Community Tennis Program! First up, Coach Christian, who is showing us backhand progression!

NYJTL would like to congratulate the graduating class of 2020!
A special shout out to one of our students, Alani Naje Connor on graduating from Mount Vernon High School!  We are very proud her journey from CTP to our Intensive Training Program! We will miss her, but we know that she will do amazing things on the tennis team at Chestnut Hill College.

The April Racket

NYJTL continues its Active Learning initiative for youth, providing daily in-home, get-out-of-your-seat learning!
In addition, the Cary Leeds Center provides LIVE sessions, workouts and tips to make sure that you stay healthy and return to tennis stronger & sharper!

Share the work of our dedicated teachers and coaches by visiting our social media pages, commenting, and liking their important work!

Turgor Pressure

Watch Mr. Sergio teach us about turgor pressure!  The water pressure inside plant cells is called turgor pressure, and it is maintained by a process called osmosis. Comment on the post if you learned something new!

Inchworm

Watch Ms. Giselle make an inworm move out of paper and a straw! Comment on the post if you have ever made a paper worm move!

Tennis Drills

Watch Coach Oscar’s teach us about staying active and keeping our tennis sharp!  Comment with a video of your own doing his tennis drills!

Catapult

Watch Ms. Uma make a catapult out of highlighters, rubber bands, and a pencil!  Comment on the post and let us know what your catapult will be made out of!

Washing your Hands

Watch Ms. V give us a demonstration on why washing your hands with both soap and water is important! Comment below and let us know your favorite soap scent!

In Memoriam:

NYJTL lost a hero.  It is with great sadness that NYJTL announces the passing of Community Tennis Coach Hector Henry. He passed away on April 22 after a brief hospitalization. Coach Hector had been an NYJTL Site Director in Brooklyn for twenty plus years. Not only was he a tremendous motivator and tennis coach, he was truly a kind and gentle mentor and friend to all. Coach Hector will be truly missed and in our hearts forever. May he rest in peace.

The March Racket – Part 2

See how NYJTL has created the Active Learning initiative providing daily hands-on learning activities!

In addition, the Cary Leeds Center provides daily workouts and tips to make sure that you stay healthy and return to tennis stronger & sharper!

Monday

Brains On is an award-winning audio show for kids and families! Each week they try to find answers to fascinating questions about the world. Their mission is to encourage kids’ natural curiosity and wonder using science and history.  Click here to get listening!

Tuesday

Code.org provides hour long activities for K-12 kids!  Code.org is a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools and underrepresented youth. Their vision is that every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science, just like any other science!

Wednesday

Every weekday at 12 and 3 pm, Little Kids Rock will post an online lesson on YouTube! Kids will have the chance to learn music in a new and fun way after they finish their online classes! Little Kids Rock also provide lessons for kids without instruments so everyone has the chance to learn music!

Thursday

The New York Public Library doesn’t want story-time to stop! The NYPL is providing weekday virtual story-times by their expert children’s librarians as they read beloved books, sing songs, and share early literacy tips.  Click here to tune in!

Friday

USTA Eastern has provided a coloring book for kids when they need to take a break from their online lessons and let their creativity out! Click here to access the online coloring book!

In Memoriam

New York Junior Tennis and Learning extends its deepest sympathies to friends and family who have passed away due to complications of COVID-19.

Arlene Stringer-Cuevas
Arlene was the loving wife of long time NYJTL Board Member Carlos Cuevas. Arlene devoted her life to her family, public service and education, and was a staunch supporter of NYJTL programs, especially in the Bronx. She worked with Carlos to help establish the Bronx Open, now played at the Cary Leeds Tennis and Learning Center in Crotona Park. She will be deeply missed by the NYJTL family.

Juliette K. Eastman
Julie was the adoring mother of NYJTL Executive Committee Board Member Polly Scott.  Julie was 97 years old, and described as a lifetime learner and passionate advocate of tennis, playing the sport well into her eighties.  Born in Brooklyn, Julie’s inquisitive nature kept her eternally joyous and young-at-heart.  She will be dearly missed, and her family is preparing for a gathering to honor her legacy as soon as safely possible.

What We’re Reading:

NYJTL Stands in Solidarity

My potential is more than can be expressed within the bounds of my race or ethnic identity.   – Arthur Ashe

Still strongly inspired by the values of Arthur Ashe in our founding nearly fifty years ago, we stand in unwavering solidarity with our NYJTL family against the injustices facing the diverse communities that we serve.  There are too many lives lost.  Turning the tide on racial injustice is only possible if we join together and all our voices are heard at this critical moment, as we aim to create an equitable society with opportunity for every family and every child growing up in New York City. – NYJTL President & CEO, George Guimaraes

Honoring the historic importance of Juneteenth for the celebration of freedom for ALL Americans, and in recognition of our founder Arthur Ashe’s lifelong dedication to racial equality, today Juneteenth, will be a holiday for all NYJTL staff.

For nearly 50 years, racial equality, justice, and opportunity have been at the heart of NYJTL’s programs for youth throughout New York City. This is the time for all of us to come together, to reconfirm our values, and to reiterate that Black lives must matter to everyone.

Getting Out On the Court

Dear Patrons,

We are following the updates, just like you and here is what we know.

NY State Update
Governor Andrew Cuomo includes, and calls out, tennis as a socially-distant and safe activity to resume.

https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/amid-ongoing-covid-19-pandemic-governor-cuomo-announces-three-regions-new-york-state-ready

While New York State has given the ok, we are bound by the guidelines of NYC and the NYC Parks Department. We are in discussion with them.

Next Steps
In the immediate: our bubble will come down, our building will remain closed to patrons, and all staff returning to work will have their temperature checked and be required to remain six feet apart and wear masks at all times within the facility.

What That Means for You
As soon as we receive approval, we will prepare to begin phase one of our reopening by making our court rentals available and offering one-on-one private lessons.

We will keep you updated and can’t wait for your safe and happy return!