Coach Spotlight: Anna Tatishvili

Anna Tatishvili, Associate Director of High Performance and Adult Programming at the Cary Leeds Center, is a Georgian-American and former professional tennis player. Anna’s story comes full circle in working for New York Junior Tennis & Learning.  She began her career as a young girl, and at age 10 at the Junior Orange Bowl (World Junior Championships) she met Gene Scott, the late husband of Board Member Polly Scott. Gene became an integral part in encouraging Anna to follow her passion and to become a world-class tennis player.  Anna was able to realize that dream.

In her career, Coach Anna won 11 singles and 8 doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit, peaking at 59 in the doubles and reaching a career-high singles ranking of 50 in the world. One of her most memorable matches was the 2012 Australian Open. Anna beat former #1 player Ashley Barty and went on to play the top tournament seed and world number 1, Caroline Wozniacki.  Even though Anna did not win that match, she remembers it as one where she left it all on the court.

In March 2020, Anna announced her retirement from professional tennis and decided to focus her efforts on coaching the future generation of tennis players.  Not long after starting at the Cary Leeds Center, Anna received a surprise. “I got a most unexpected and heartwarming email from NYJTL Board member Polly Scott which made me very emotional, in a very good way of course!” Anna shared. After her late husband’s passing, Polly demonstrated her belief and commitment to the game by joining the NYJTL Board of Directors. “Life is a strange thing,” Anna said. “Who knew that 20 years after meeting Gene, that little girl with big dreams would work for the organization that he helped create.”

True to NYJTL’s mission, Anna is committed to encouraging good character through tennis and education for a lifetime of success, on and off the court. Anna explains, “I want to give back to my students all the knowledge and experience I have gathered over the course of my long tennis career. I hope I can also influence someone’s life positively; helping to build strong, confident children, which is what NYJTL stands for and I am very lucky to be part of this organization.”

Women’s History Month Feature: Joyce Short

Joyce Short, the Site Director for the Community Tennis Program at the Roosevelt Island site, is an example of dedication within the NYJTL community. In the Winter of 1991, Joyce and NYJTL first opened the site at Roosevelt Island, and it has been going strong ever since under her leadership.  In addition, she is a District Developer for Manhattan and Western Queens.

Initially, the Roosevelt Island program ran during the winter and summer, but today, the program operates year-round and rotates between the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club courts and the outdoor courts at the North end of the Island. Joyce doesn’t simply teach the kids skills to improve tennis, she has created a sense of community and camaraderie amongst the kids and their families regardless of individual or cultural backgrounds. Before COVID, after a winter session on the courts, the kids would get together and have a healthy and well-balanced breakfast. For the rest of the year, they’d hold a party each Friday afternoon to celebrate the accomplishments of all the kids and the birthdays that took place during the week.

Over the years, Joyce has worked with tens of thousands of kids and could arguably be the best-known person on Roosevelt Island, having worked with so many of the island’s families. For Joyce, the job is a passion; she loves to see the children grow and prosper.  She is drawn to the program and providing this opportunity for the children to build their self-esteem and allow them to be the best version of themselves.

Joyce has been an athlete her entire life, participating in tennis, basketball, diving, and skiing. She went to college at the University of Georgia in 1965, and had hoped to continue her passion of diving, deciding to live in the dorm next to the only pool, a men’s pool, on campus. She went to college before Title IX came into existence; a federal civil rights law in the United States that was passed as part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives federal money. She had competed on her city’s AAU Junior Olympic Team, but was only allowed to use the pool during free-swim hours, twice a week. During that time, the diving board was closed to accommodate people swimming laps, thus ending any chance of continued competition in the sport.

Women’s rights became an important issue for Joyce. She believes that girls are just as capable of becoming athletes as boys are.  “We do not separate the genders in the program, even at the advanced level.  Kids are assigned to a group based solely on their skills…. both the skills they have, and the skills they need. Gender is simply not a factor”.

Not only has Joyce been a staunch advocate for women’s rights and social justice, but also an advocate for the community of Roosevelt Island, by founding and serving on several community boards and having been the Co-Editor of The Main Street Wire.

Joyce has devoted 30 years of her life in service to the children throughout the City of New York and Roosevelt Island through NYJTL.  For this, during Women’s History Month, NYJTL is proud to spotlight Joyce’s tremendous contribution to so many children and thank her for her contributions on and off the courts.  Keep up the incredible work Joyce!

Coach Ahsha is Featured by the USTA

Former WTA Pro Ahsha Rolle Growing Tennis in the Bronx

By: Victoria Chiesa

(See the original article here) Former touring pro Ahsha Rolle was guided in part by a female coach during her WTA career, and she’s using what she learned from former Grand Slam winner Lori McNeil to mentor tennis players of all ages in New York City.

Rolle, now 35, coached by the former world No. 9 and 1988 French Open mixed doubles champion in her playing days, was recently named the director of tennis at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning, a 20-court facility nestled outside of Crotona Park in the Bronx.

Boasting a unique playing style on the court as well as a one-handed backhand as a pro, Rolle peaked at No. 82 in the WTA rankings, reached the third round of the US Open in 2007 as a wild card, and was also a member of the U.S. Billie Jean King Cup team. Retiring at age 28 due to bone spurs in both knees, Rolle’s coaching career in the New York area began at Glen Head Tennis Club on Long Island, and it can be said that the influence that McNeil had on her is now reflected in her own hands-on, personalized coaching style.

“Lori was a very impactful person in my tennis career but also in my development as a person. She has a good heart and loves to give back, and her insight, tennis-wise, was amazing. She really helped my all-court game style, but she also taught me discipline and how to be a good professional. She impacted me both on and off the court,” Rolle said.

“So for me, I try to build my players’ games based on their characteristics and personalities… I customize their training to their needs, so I don’t train everyone the same way. Off the court, I would hope that the work that we’re putting in now is helping to mold them as adults. I want them to be confident adults, I want them to be disciplined adults. I want them to learn all the life skills that tennis naturally teaches them, and apply it to whatever career choices they have in the future.”

Since Cary Leeds opened in 2015, the center has provided over 6,000 hours of free tennis instruction to under-resourced city youth annually, while also offering structured programming for juniors and adults of all ages and skill levels. In her new role, Rolle divides her time between on-court and administrative work by coordinating Cary Leeds’ adult programs, as well as training the club’s high-performance women and juniors.

“We have commercial programming that you can pay for… but we also have a community side to it. If you’re under-resourced and can’t afford things, there are programs there for you,” Rolle said. “We also give some of the kids scholarships if they can’t afford to pay. We have opportunities for all at Cary Leeds, and that’s one thing that we’re really proud of: that money or income does not separate the quality of coaching that you can experience.

“My philosophy is that a player is a player, whether you’re a 50-year-old woman or a high-performing junior. I give the same concepts and information to all of them. They all need to know continental grip skills, they all need to know how to slice, they all need to work on transitioning skills. I tell my ladies, ‘These are the drills that we did with our high-performance juniors today, and these are the drills you’re going to do, too.’ Maybe they won’t do it as long, or at the same intensity, but they’re going to do the same drills. That’s one thing that they really enjoy: that I don’t change my style and I don’t treat them differently.”

Having first picked up tennis at the age of 9 on public courts in Miami, Rolle says that the growth of the sport amongst minority groups in a similarly dense urban area like New York City is important to her. Having been in the unique position of having a female coach on the WTA tour, Rolle also hopes to impart the wisdom she gained through her pro career on the next generation, particularly as a Black woman who was mentored by another in her own development.

“I came to Cary Leeds specifically because I wanted to have more of an impact on the culture that I am in. I’m African-American, so I want to be able to help underserved kids of color and give them very high-quality coaching in that area. I want to make an impact in the community,” she said.

“From Serena and Venus to Coco Gauff and Frances Tiafoe… you now have this whole generation for kids of color to look up to. They’ll just create another generation of excellence. Being able to have representation in a sport that is predominantly white is huge, but also, to have someone like me being in a position like this is a great thing, too.

“Let’s say someone graduates from college and they want to get into tennis, they can strive towards roles like this. They can see another African-American in a position that they want to be in one day. Representation is the key in all these different positions, and the more we have access to things and be in different roles, the better it will be for people of color in general.

“As an organization as a whole, we’re working on being more diverse. We have four board members of color, so that’s a step in the right direction. We’re definitely pushing to have more people of color at higher positions in different organizations like this. I’m happy to be a woman of color in a strong position. I don’t know that many directors of tennis that are women, and Black at that. I hope that I can influence others to strive for excellence, and anything that I can do to promote positivity and growth in that area, I’m all for.”

2021 Black History Month

Dear NYJTL Family:

Nearly fifty years ago New York Junior Tennis & Learning was founded on public tennis courts in the middle of the Bronx under the vision of Arthur Ashe.  Arthur’s vision was to serve under-resourced children through tennis, and ultimately education. Since its inception, Arthur has served as both NYJTL’s inspiration and beacon.

Arthur wanted to harness his power and influence to effect and promote long-lasting positive advancement for the Black community.  As the world awakens to the many existing hardships and inequities that the Black community faces every day, NYJTL wants to do everything within its power to promote equality, champion Black lives, and embrace NYC’s wonderful and beautiful diversity.

We believe that tennis and education are a catalyst for long-term achievement.  Tennis and education are a powerful combination that can develop, empower, and improve society.  We are committed to doing our part and serving our community and seeing that every child is fully prepared for their future, regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status.

During Black History Month, we recognize our many heroes who came before us and celebrate their remarkable contributions to tennis, education, and humanity.  Our journey will highlight and laud Arthur Ashe’s legacy and the many influential Black people and their many endeavors who preceded and followed his important work on and off the court.

Please look for updates throughout the month and join us on Instagram/Facebook while we kick off the month honoring Arthur Ashe.

Congratulations Coach Ahsha

Ahsha Rolle Promotion
It is with great pleasure, that the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning (CLC) announces the promotion of Ahsha Rolle to Director of Tennis.  In her new role, Ahsha will take on additional responsibilities for scheduling and managing all full and part-time coaches as well as overseeing tennis programming at the center.

Ahsha was previously the Director of Adult Programs at the Cary Leeds Center and under her tenure those programs have seen extraordinary growth.  Cary Leeds Center customers will continue to see Ahsha on-court delivering the very highest quality programming.

In the new reorganization, Ahsha Rolle, Jay Devashetty, and Scott Hauthsor will continue to report directly to Bruce Manson, Interim General Manager and form the Cary Leeds Center Leadership Team.

Please join us in congratulating Ahsha Rolle as our new Director of Tennis, effective Monday, January 4, 2020.

More about Ahsha
Ahsha turned pro in 2007, after reaching top 20 national ranking in Junior Girl’s 18s. Having trained under Lori McNeil, #9 in the world in singles and #4 in doubles, and Ola Malmqvist, the head of professional tennis at the USTA, Ahsha has achieved a career high ranking of 82 in the world in singles and a ranking of 111 in doubles for the WTA. She has played in all four Grand Slam tournaments, at least twice, and has reached the 3rd round of both the US Open and Indian Wells in 2007. Ahsha also competed in the semi-finals Fed Cup tie against Russia in 2008. As staff pro at the Cary Leeds Center, she teaches Adults and High-Performance Juniors, seeking to develop each player’s unique game-style to help them reach their full potential with a blend of strategy drills and games to keep players engaged. In her own words, “Real growth occurs outside of your comfort zone, so I have a passion for pushing players to new levels in their games.” Contact Ahsha at arolle@nyjtl.org

December Racket

The Racket 🎾

Dancing Classrooms

NYJTL partners with Dancing Classrooms, an organization that cultivates essential life skills in more than 150 schools and 17,000 NYC children annually through the joyful art and practice of social dance. As NYC children spend more time at home, NYJTL ACES Afterschool Program kids will have the opportunity to keep moving and learning through a series of pre-recorded and live/synchronous social dance lessons strengthening and diversifying its virtual offerings. Learn more about Dancing Classrooms.

The Cary Leeds Center

Effective December 1st, Liezel Huber has decided to step down as Executive Director of Tennis at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning to spend more time with her family. We would like to thank Liezel for her years of service. Her work has been instrumental in the growth and success of the Cary Leeds Center and its mission to provide tennis to under-resourced children in the community. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation

Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation (DSG Foundation), through their “Sports Matter” initiative, acknowledge Ms. Lorraine’s dedication to creating a positive and safe space for the community at Co-Op City. Read the whole story…

Mayor David N. Dinkins

NYJTL was saddened to learn of the passing of long-time Board Member and organizational mentor, Mayor David N. Dinkins.  We are honored that Mayor Dinkins chose to devote much of his time and efforts to bettering the lives of NYC youth through his work with NYJTL.