Recap: Winter Season Opener

Recap: Winter Season Opener

We welcomed our students back to the tennis courts—indoors!—on Saturday, February 4 at Pratt Institute to commence our first Winter Tennis Season.

Both sessions—ages 9 and under and ages 10 and up—were a lot of fun and very successful. The students were thrilled to be back on the court and were especially happy about the new facility.

The classes began with reviews of basic tennis skills and social norms or tennis etiquette. Led by staff members Lucca and Ari, we reinforced expectations for grips, stances, and swing patterns. The skills recap was helpful for the kids' adjustment to a new tennis surface. Unlike an outdoor tennis court or blacktop, the ball bounces lower on an indoor court, so we emphasized the importance of early swing preparation and bending the knees for groundstrokes. Social norms for the kids include hugging their racquets when they aren't hitting and practicing safety when others are on the court.

After getting a feel for the new, challenging tennis surface, we moved onto rotating stations with fast-paced tennis drills. And, of course, we wrapped up with a game of Breakout at the very end of each session.

View more photos from the Winter Season Opener on Facebook.

Our Brand New Winter Program Begins Next Month!

Our Brand New Winter Program Begins Next Month!

Summer tennis at five public housing developments in Bed-Stuy. Check.
After-school tennis at Marcy Playground. Check.
Indoor Winter Tennis at Pratt Insitute...? Check!


In line with our effort to make tennis available to the kids year round, we are proud to announce the establishment of a brand new Winter Tennis Season based at Pratt next month. We will continue to teach and reinforce the fundamentals of tennis, develop individual strategy on the court, and introduce specialty shots such as drop shots and lobs.

The eight-week program begins Saturday, February 4 and ends Saturday, April 1 with a day off for Presidents' Day Weekend, February 18. Six of the Saturdays will be actual tennis classes at Pratt, while the other two will be field trips to inspire unique learning opportunities, much like our past trips to Google and Made in Midtown Shoe Factory. 

Following exceptionally strong youth interest, enrollment is closed. Volunteer space remains open. If you are 16 or older and available for four or more sessions, you can register to volunteer here.

Fall After School Tennis at Marcy is a Go!

Fall After School Tennis at Marcy is a Go!

It's official; we are breaking tradition—for the better. KCTL is opening a brand new Fall After School Program at Marcy Playground, Monday through Thursday, beginning October 10 to extend engagement with our students following the Annual Jamboree Tournament. Though the lessons are based at Marcy, students from all five sites are eligible for participation. This high-intensity athletic program will give our kids the opportunity to drastically improve their tennis skills with constant play. Thank you to all of the donors and supporters who have made this initiative possible.


Week 14 Recap from Tompkins

Week 14 Recap from Tompkins

After a missed class in observance of Labor Day Weekend, Team Tompkins returned to the court on Saturday, September 10 for Academy Day. The goal for each student was to transition from a First Grader to a Ph.D. graduate by successfully performing a specific tennis skill at each station, which represented a grade level.

The skill for each grade level became increasingly difficult throughout the game. We were proud to see that a high number of students made it beyond Eighth Grade and into High School! Even better, two of our students performed well enough to be "accepted" into College! Site Leader Tina said she could sense the frustration when it took some students significantly longer than others complete certain grades. On the bright side, though, no one ever gave up, which was very inspirational to Tina.

For the off-court discussion, Tompkins hosted a volunteer guest speaker, Jerald, who spoke to the students about police-community relations. He wanted to know how the kids felt about the police and what they would like to ask them if they had the chance.

Jerald then revealed that there would be a police meet-and-greet at the upcoming Jamboree Tournament and encouraged the students to ask the questions proposed in class. A big part of his presentation was to help the students to see the police as friends and protectors instead of foes.

Week 12 Recap from Sumner

Week 12 Recap from Sumner

Sumner students were excited to be back on court after having last class off due to extreme heat.

Class began with the students and volunteers running a few laps around the court and some careful stretching. Afterwards, the students were divided into two groups based on skill level and age. 

The stations of the week were Fitness and Rallying. At Fitness, the kids jump roped, practiced sit-ups and push-ups, and competed in a ladder challenge. The Rallying station took a "beat the pro" format; the children played out points against Mike, a volunteer.

In the off-court session, the students completed individual surveys about grit and resilience to reinforce the concepts and to help the organization's leaders assess their learning.

After off-court, Sumner concluded with their favorite games: Champs and Challengers, followed by Breakout.

We're Going to Arthur Ashe Kids Day on August 27th!

We're Going to Arthur Ashe Kids Day on August 27th!

After a summer of bringing tennis to the kids, we are bringing the kids to the home of the best tennis in the country!


All KCTL students are welcome! Click here to register your child.

KCTL Parents/Guardians and Volunteers are invited to accompany us as chaperones. Fill out a form to join us.

There will NOT be normal Saturday class on this day.


AAKD is an annual grassroots tennis and entertainment event held immediately before the start of the U.S. Open. Expect an incredible day of interactive tennis activities, watching tennis pros practice, a live concert, and more! Food will be provided.

Meet at your regular KCTL site by 9:00 AM for subway departure at 9:20. For our trip home, we'll congregate at Practice Courts 3 & 4 at the Tennis Center shortly after 3:00 PM. We will return to our home sites between 4:00 and 4:30 PM.

No food is allowed inside the USTA grounds. Please do not bring racquets, and avoid bringing bags if you can.

#NothingTopsTennis: Handling Anger in Response to Poor Play

#NothingTopsTennis: Handling Anger in Response to Poor Play

Educational Coordinator Ari Fulton from Lafayette Gardens is so proud that her students took home the gold at this year's Davis Cup. The team not only demonstrated stellar athletic ability on the court, but showed true sportsmanship toward all players.

In her August 6 off-court discussion, Ari continued the conversation on cognitive awarenesswith an introduction to grit and resilience. The discussion focused on emotions—specifically anger. Three adult volunteers acted out different reactions to missing a return swing in a tennis match. One person acted violently, one yelled, and one passive-aggressively refused to continue the game.

Though the kids easily recognized that the skit was meant to encourage them to control their anger, Ari and her students were still able to enjoy a meaningful conversation.

Once the laughter over the volunteers' bad acting subsided, one student, Jayden, shot his hand eagerly into the air. In that very moment, he connected the skit to an incident in his own life. Jayden explained that he and another boy, Damian, had gotten into an argument about missing a shot during Davis Cup.

Together, the class talked about the argument, and the boys problem-solved ways to communicate more effectively. The objective of the lesson was not to never be angry, but to think about ways we can use our words instead of actions to express our anger.

Week 10: Recap from Lafayette Gardens

Week 10: Recap from Lafayette Gardens

After winning Davis Cup on July 30, Lafayette Gardens participants were eager to return to regular class on August 6, after previously missing tennis on July 23 for a weather-related cancellation.

At Lafayette Gardens, with ominous grey skies, the class began with just a few students, but others trickled in as the sun began to shine. To warm up students ran a couple of laps around the playground followed by student led stretches. Shortly afterwards, they were divided by ability/age and were assigned different stations.

Stations included learning and practicing serving, forehand and backhand drills with footwork, champion of the court, and volleying.

During the off-court break, Ari, the Educational Coordinator, had volunteers demonstrate good and bad behaviors while on the court and had the students explain why the behaviors were either effective or ineffective. When finished, students were back on the court for a fun game of breakout--it never gets old!--before thanking one of the instructors who was leaving for the summer. 

#NothingTopsTennis: International Teamwork at Davis Cup 2016

#NothingTopsTennis: International Teamwork at Davis Cup 2016

July's educational theme, Cognitive Awareness, concluded with an activity that, for many students, required an entirely new way of thinking: playing tennis with a teammate. While the first eight weeks of the season emphasized individual athletic performance and behavior, July 30 highlighted the importance of collaboration with a tennis partner and appreciation for an entire team.

The Davis Cup is an annual tournament in which each KCTL site represents a country. Landmarks on our diverse world map included Guyana (Lafayette Gardens), France (Marcy), Trinidad & Tobago (Jackie Robinson), Brazil (Sumner), and Senegal (Tompkins). Before play, the students and volunteers from each team briefly discussed key facts about their countries.

Tournament play itself consisted of nine "Champion of the Court" stations, in which participants were paired up and matched up according to skill level. In order to become the new Champion, the Challengers had to score two consecutive points against their opponents.  All points won on the Champion side contributed to each team's total score.

The final results of the tournament were definitely shocking, considering that Marcy is our long-term defending champion. Lafayette Gardens, Tompkins, and Sumner, placed in first, second, and third, respectively. We are extremely proud of all players and teams for their efforts!

Beyond tennis, we were fortunate to have two special guests on the court with us. Thank you to KIND Snacks for again sharing healthy goodness with us, and to Birdie NYC (GreenNYC's mascot) for awesome reusable water bottles in exchange for our promise to use less plastic!

Week 7: Recap from Jackie Robinson

Week 7: Recap from Jackie Robinson

Thanks to the extra warm summertime weather in Bed-Stuy on Saturday, Jackie Robinson Park felt like one of the world's top tennis academies in Florida! The heat and sunshine made for perfect tennis weather, said Michele, the Jackie Robinson Tennis Club Site Leader.

The students continued to work on the basic fundamentals of the forehand and backhand. Additionally, they were introduced to some more sophisticated aspects of the forehand volley. Class was divided into five rotational stations: forehand groundstrokes, backhand groundstrokes, volleys, footwork, and hand-eye coordination.

After the rotation was complete, the staff and volunteers conducted a brief tennis demonstration for the kids. Michele knew that the sight of experienced tennis players rallying back and forth would inspire her students. She wanted them imagine what they could become if they continued to work hard. The students were really engaged and entertained the entire time.

Before the end-of-class game, Christine, the Educational Coordinator, conducted an off-court discussion about cognitive thinking. She emphasized the importance of taking a moment to reflect on the choices we are about to make before we actually make them. Then, one of the site's volunteers, Louis, was interviewed in the "Hot Seat." Louis shared interesting details about his background and the kids asked some really insightful questions.

The team ended the session with a quick round of tennis baseball, also known as Breakout, which is always so much fun! Jackie Robinson continues to grow beautifully and, as always, Michele, Christine, and the volunteers are thrilled to be a part of such an incredible experience.

#NothingTopsTennis: Tennis Balls to Think About Thinking

#NothingTopsTennis: Tennis Balls to Think About Thinking

At Jackie Robinson, Educational Coordinator Christine led a session about cognitive awareness or, more simply, "thinking about thinking."

Much like how the students at Marcy learned about the concept—divided into pairs with only one member given a tennis ball—Jackie Robinson's empty-handed players were instructed to get the bright yellow sphere from their partners in 30 seconds by "any means necessary." With the exception making physical violence totally off-limits, no further rules were given.

Many of the children ended up chasing each other around the tennis courts. They recouped and Christine had them share how they tried to obtain the ball and discuss which methods worked best.

After some conversation, Christine finally asked who simply requested the ball from their partner, rather than trying to grab it out of his or her hands. To her delight, many did in fact "ask" for the ball, indicating a high level of cognitive awareness.

Following the tennis ball activity, Christine noticed how one of Jackie Robinson's most energetic students, Joey, has shown maturity and cognitive development—particularly in his "assistant coaching" stints. When he helped Michele organize the class, Christine asked, "Joey, how did you get all the kids to follow you? Did you shout?"  

"No, I just asked them individually," he responded proudly.

Week 6: Recap from Marcy

Week 6: Recap from Marcy

Following a break from tennis for Independence Day Weekend, our Marcy students eagerly returned to the courts on Saturday, July 9.

July is Cognitive Awareness Month. We lightly introduced the concept at the beginning of class, but dug deeper during the off-court segment. After stretches and warm-up laps, we played a game that tested our reasoning and judgment. We began standing in the center of court's north side as a group, surrounded by three sets of cones--green, yellow, and blue--in various corners of the court. When our Site Leader, Lucca, announced a color, we ran as a group to the corresponding set of cones. The game not only tested our students' endurance, but their ability to make rational decisions in response to cues. At one point during the game, Lucca called out, "Red!" as a test of judgment. About a third of the students and volunteers began to run toward the nonexistent set of red cones. The drill was a great mental and physical challenge.

Tennis lessons for the day prioritized forehand and backhand volleys. For some students, the no-swing, powerful punch was an easy review, and for others it was an introduction to something completely new. Students participated in stations including a groundstroke-volley combination drill, Volley-Style Champion of the Court, targets, and a racquet-free exercises including squats.

Following our station rotation, our volunteers administered individual paper surveys on Cognitive Awareness. Most students were unfamiliar with the fairly advanced concept, but we hope that by end of the July, they will have a strong understanding.

Next, our Educational Coordinator, Gary, asked everyone to pair up. Most pairs consisted of volunteer and one student. One partner was given a tennis ball, and the other was instructed to obtain the tennis ball from their counterpart "using any means necessary"--safely, of course.

Most student-volunteer pairs ran unnecessarily in circles trying to swat the ball out of the other's hand. But one team completed the exercise correctly. They didn't run. They didn't scream. One partner merely politely asked the other for the ball. So the best way to get the ball was not through a physical contest, but through use of conversation and emotions.

Week 5: Recap from Tompkins (Family Day)

Week 5: Recap from Tompkins (Family Day)

Saturday, June 25 marked our annual Family Day initiative, a day on which students can invite a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent, or friend to their KCTL site. As usual, we had a strong turnout from family members--both those who were daring enough to join the kids on the court, and those who preferred to cheer from the sidelines. We appreciated all of our special visitors, no matter their level of participation!

At Tompkins, students practiced their groundstrokes--both forehands and backhands--to combine lessons from recent weeks. The kids were proud to show off their improvement to their family members.

The off-court session wrapped up June's Healthy Choices Month. Kate, Tompkins' Educational Coordinator, instructed the students to explain what they had already learned about nutrition to their guests. Teaching others is the best way to reinforce what you have already learned!

Also during the off-court session, the students participated in the Fitness Challenge. Site Leader Tina remarked how proud she was of her students' abilities to perform push-ups, shuttle runs, and situps!

To wrap up the session, the class played two family-friendly games: Caterpillar and Breakout. A few of the older students stepped in as leaders during these games to assist the younger students, demonstrating big leaps in their maturity and independence.

#NothingTopsTennis: Using Our Tennis Court to Teach Healthy Choices

#NothingTopsTennis: Using Our Tennis Court to Teach Healthy Choices

June is Healthy Choices Month at Kings County Tennis League. Our students have participated in a series of off-court discussions about nutrition and exercise, and this coming weekend, during Family Day, we’re having a fitness challenge!

At Lafayette Gardens, where there is no physical tennis court, but a large open blacktop space with portable nets and hand-drawn lines, Educational Coordinator Ari recently led an informational, interactive game called “This or That.” Quite fantastically, the game combines exercise and nutrition!

Ari presented her students with two different foods—each set at opposite ends of the court—and directed them to decide which is nutritionally superior. They were instructed to declare their choice by running to the end of the court at which the perceived healthier food was located.

The decisions were individual, not team-based. Each child independently ran to the side that reflected his or her own personal opinion. After each sprint to a food choice, Ari led a discussion about which choice was, in fact, nutritionally better and why. It was definitely an excellent educational opportunity for all of the participants.

Lafayette Gardens may lack a real tennis court, but, evidently, this cannot stop the team from using its makeshift tennis surface in a creative way. Most of us look at a tennis court and see only one purpose: to play a specific game. But at KCTL, we use the tennis court—"real" or not—for activities and lessons of all kinds.   

Week 4: Recap from Sumner

Week 4: Recap from Sumner

Class this week at Sumner was amazing! We continued practicing backhands after introducing them last week.

Class started out with a quick warmup and stretching with all the volunteers and students. We also played a few quick games of Tennis Freeze Tag. The students had to balance a ball on their racquets while walking around the court. If tagged, they became "frozen" and had to wait for a teammate to unfreeze them. The game would end whenever all the participants were frozen.

Following Freeze Tag, students were divided by age into two groups. Our stations for the week were backhand, fitness, hand-eye, and self-hit forehand. 

During the off-court discussion led by our Educational Coordinator, Meredith, we discussed strength training and cardio training. To better understand strength training, students watched one volunteer, Nick, perform push-ups and another volunteer, Amanda, perform a plank--both in perfect form! While we were done with our discussion, the kids enjoyed Kind Bars as a healthy snack.

Our last activity for the day was Breakout with backhands. The kids did an amazing job with their backhands. Katelynn, one of our youngest Sumner participants, was declared the winner!

We finished the day by gathering together, putting our hands all in, and cheering out, "Sumner!"