When Bryce Richards discovered KCTL two years ago, he already had plenty to bring to the court: nearly 20 years of tennis experience, high school team leadership experience, and a background in teaching the sport to children. Through his unique journey from Sumner Volunteer to Sumner Site Leader and, now, Lafayette Gardens Site Leader, Bryce's dedication has made a difference for KCTL--but he's always left room for reflection. Read on for some of Bryce's biggest takeaways from our youth tennis program.
How and when did you learn about KCTL, and what attracted you to the program?
I learned about the program in September 2013, right after I'd moved to New York. I'd just reconnected with a friend who invited me to join, so I volunteered at Sumner a couple times that fall. I loved the idea of bringing tennis directly into the housing projects. I'd never seen anything like that. I also had a lot of fun chatting with the kids; I'd forgotten how much fun it can be to work with kids.
What positive changes have you observed in the program over the years?
It's definitely become more organized. In 2013, I just showed up at Sumner and started hitting with a couple kids without any instructions or formal training. Last year--during which time I was Site Leader at Sumner--was far more organized, but a couple of things fell through. This year, Meredith's role as Director of Programming has made a huge difference. Case in point: the wonderful Davis Cup we just had.
What do you consider the highlight(s) of your experience with KCTL?
In early 2015, I took all the kids on a trip to the Google office where I work. I thought I was going to need to memorize all sorts of facts about the company that might bore the kids, but I should have known that a game room, unlimited snacks, and all the silly Google decorations would be more than enough entertainment on their own. I think the kids had a blast. The goal was for them to say to think, "Wow, this is cool, I'd like to work someplace like this when I grow up. So this is why school matters."
How and when did you begin playing tennis?
I've played tennis for as long as I can remember. My parents took me and my older sister out to the court to feed balls from us when we were three or four years old. Now, with an adult's perspective, I'm so grateful for how much patience and love they showed us by doing that. I really ought to thank them again.
How has playing tennis impacted you personally?
Tennis has been a part of every stage of my life. Growing up, I played "family tennis"--my mom and me vs. my sister and dad. I played in tournaments as I got older, was captain of the high school team, worked my first job teaching at a tennis camp, played club tennis in college, and met most of my friends through tennis. And continuing to today, KCTL is a big part of my life. That's one of many great things about tennis: it's a lifelong sport. My dad plays all the time, and he's pushing 70. I don't think the same can be said for a sport like rugby.
What do you want to see the students at Lafayette Gardens gain from playing tennis this summer?
I think KCTL will teach different things to different kids. I think some might learn a lot from the off-courts discussions, information that sticks with them later in life. I still remember some facts and life advice passed down from my mom or dad when I was very young, some of which are quite important! Other kids might benefit more from the tennis instruction, by picking up a sport that they can play for a long time. Learning to lose with dignity is an important life lesson--you do a lot of losing in tennis. This is what I think is great about KCTL. The program provides so many different positive things--formal mentoring in the off-court conversations, informal mentoring in the interaction with volunteers, tennis lessons, and just plain fun--that I think are bound to help these kids.