This week, we catch up with Renata Thakurdyal, Tompkins Site Coordinator. A first-generation American born in Queens to Guyanese parents, Renata started playing tennis as a young girl in her own backyard. As she grew up, so did her love for the game. Renata describes tennis as more than just a sport. It brought her motivation, enjoyment, and friendship. And now she hopes to bring those same opportunities every Saturday to KCTL.

When did you pick up tennis and why do you continue to play?

I started playing tennis at the age of 12 in my middle school backyard where there were five tennis courts. The pull for me was the challenge of a new sport under the boiling sun with awesome new friends. Friendship was a major motivational factor for playing tennis--and wanting to get better. I played every chance I had during the school year and in the summers for no less than seven hours a day, for many years. I still continue to play because I love to be active and tennis is in my blood, swinging the racquet feels great. Competition is fun, but it is more the body in motion that appeals to me.

When did you learn about KCTL and what motivated you to volunteer?

I learned about KCTL from a flyer in a coffee/ice cream shop where I was working part-time during the summer of 2014. It was lovely to find a program where I could play tennis with the youth and be a positive influence for them. I have been a literacy educator for many years and used to help with the younger students when I played tennis in high school. I thought this was a great way to be in touch with the sport even more. Plus, I love grassroots initiatives for the youth.

What's been your most memorable & best experience with KCTL so far?

My most memorable moment with KCTL was the Jamboree of 2014; it got rained out, but we held the ceremony anyway. It was magical to see the coaches from all the sites and so many students come out! One of the participants from Tompkins came running up to me as I was leaving and gave me an extra hug, which was so nice. I knew I definitely wanted to come back for the next season and that Jamboree made the desire concrete. I got to see many of those students from Tompkins again this year which is special.

If you could give one piece of advice to the kids, what would it be?

Critical advice for all my students: Know your resources. Where you can go to access opportunities and get the information you need. We live in a city brimming with potential and few students gain access because they do not adequately research the possibilities, the best of these are not largely advertised. Knowing your resources puts you in a position to take advantage of opportunities that no one else can tell you about. Listen with an open mind and be tolerant, you will learn.

If there was one professional tennis player you could play doubles with, who would it be and why?

It'd be awesome to play doubles with Gaël Sébastien Monfils. I love that he is francophone and seems to have a fun personality. He is a dynamic tennis player. I remember watching him play when I was younger and being thrilled.