On September 23, the weather around Brooklyn provided kids from around the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with a summer welcome as they trickled into the Marcy playground for the Kings County Tennis League's 8th Annual Youth Tournament & Community Jamboree.
KCTL Program Manager David Webley arrived early to set up with the courts, as Michael Rojas, Educational Coordinator, and Kim Diehl, Sumner Site Leader, prepared the tournament draw: single-elimination for \]`the 10-and-under division and a round robin for the 11-and-over group.
"Dave ensured the kids had a competitive format, much like a USTA juniors tournament," said Rob Gerstman, the site leader of the Marcy Tennis Club, which had several competitive players with eyes on the trophy table. "But when the kids weren’t on the court, they were hanging out with their peers, making new friends, eating good food, getting their faces painted, having balloon swords made for them and cheering on other players."
After the players warmed up, the matches began -- and slowly, but surely the draw was whittled down to the finals, which took place onMarcy's Center Court. In the end, Jonathan and Xavier from the Marcy Club battled it out for the top prize, both hitting severe topspin and chasing down each other's drop shots. On their way to the top, they overcame Julius and Maya from Lafayette Gardens, Andre from Jackie Robinson and AJ from Sumner.
"Dozens of families and students gathered around to witness some amazing tennis! Lots of positive energy, support and great tennis etiquette," Gerstman said. "It was incredible. KCTL has made such a difference, and the kids have been inspired to put in an effort, only matched by that of the volunteers."
After the championship, everyone gathered again for the award presentation, where Jonathan took the top trophy for winning the best of 3-set challenge. KCTL President and Founder Michael McCasland also presented plaques to one individual from each site who best represented the characteristics of KCTL. Smiles and cheers were had all around for the honorees.
"No matter how you did in the tournament, all of you are winners, just for showing up, just for competing with pride and grace," McCasland said. "Billie Jean King has a saying: 'Pressure is a privilege.' You all accepted the pressure and the privilege, and we're all better for it."