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Jackie Robinson Tennis Club

Week 10 Recap from Jackie Robinson

Week 10 Recap from Jackie Robinson

Saturday, August 5 at Jackie Robinson was a questionable day for tennis that ended up working out just perfectly in the end. Due to the weather, the site staff waited 15 minutes after the hour to begin, allowing more students to arrive. 

The students and volunteers began with a warm up of sprints, butt kicks, high knees, frog jumps, and side steps.

The class was then broken out into three courts according to skill, which ranged from beginner to intermediate. Team Jackie Robinson worked on the basics (forehand, backhand, and volleys) with a few games in between.

Educational Coordinators Christine and Michael led a great lesson where students used their artistic skills to design a puzzle piece with pictures that illustrated some of their interests or favorite things. 

The players ended with a game of tennis baseball, or Breakout, with the intermediate group and a game of Tennis Freeze Tag with the beginners.

Overall it was a rewarding experience for all participants!

#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 3: Recap from Jackie Robinson

Week 3: Recap from Jackie Robinson

Class this week at Jackie Robinson was awesome, recalls Site Leader Michelle Gee. Everyone was happy that we didn't get rained out and that attendance was still high. 

Michele led her students in the basic fundamentals of the forehand groundstroke. She also had the opportunity to introduce the forehand volley. The majority of the students were divided into three stations that rotated approximately every 10 minutes.

A fourth station had a lesson plan that was specifically designed for the older, more advanced students that can play on a full-sized court.

Although we are just in the third week, the children are improving at an amazing rate. The volunteers are doing an incredible job of reinforcing a team mentality and the importance of working together.

During the off-court session, led by Ian, we talked about healthy eating and its benefits. The children seemed to be very engaged.

Overall, Michelle is much looking forward to the rest of the season! She is proud to lead an amazing group of young athletes.

#NothingTopsTennis: Off-Court in the Hot Seat with Michele from Jackie Robinson

#NothingTopsTennis: Off-Court in the Hot Seat with Michele from Jackie Robinson

At Jackie Robinson’s June 4 class, we used the off-court session for a new learning initiative, the “Hot Seat,” in which students have the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions questions to a volunteer or staff member. This week, Jackie Robinson’s Site Leader, Michele Gee, was “interviewed” by her students in the Hot Seat.

Questions ranged from silly things like, “What hair products do you use”?” to “How do you feel when you play tennis?”. The latter question was proposed by a 10-year-old student, Amr, who so sincerely wanted to know how tennis makes Michele feel—as if he, too, experiences something “special” when playing the game.

Michele’s answer was simple, yet powerful; the game makes her feel strong because it reminds her of the obstacles she’s overcome. “I struggled with athleticism throughout my childhood. I always had to work twice as hard as the next person to develop my hand eye coordination and motor skills. When I think of all the perseverance that it took for me to succeed, I know that it required a ton of strength for me to not give up. Tennis was very much a challenge for me but when I look back at all the obstacles I had to overcome, I feel very accomplished.”

Reflecting on the session, Educational Coordinator Christine Hum says, “Tennis has a unique way of bringing out the best in others and bringing people of different backgrounds together. Who knew we'd have so much to talk about off-court?”

Some of the younger kids who are usually quiet came out of their shells to pepper Michele with questions about her life, Christine proudly recalls. The kids loved the interview format and a chance to relate to the adults on their site. The 30+ students had more questions than time allowed, so Christine encouraged them to continue their conversations with Michele throughout the summer.  

Week 16 Recap: Jamboree!

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Week 16 Recap: Jamboree!

Saturday, September 26 marked the grand finale to KCTL's sixth tennis season: The Annual Youth Tennis Tournament & Community Jamboree. What a wonderful day we had!

Jamboree-2015

Jamboree-2015

The courts at Marcy Playground welcomed students, volunteers, parents, and family members with perfect, sunny weather. Upbeat music pumped from the speakers as burgers, hot dogs, pasta salad and fruit were served. It was the perfect community party atmosphere and farewell to summer.

The main event--the tennis tournament--featured dozens of gripping matches, positive sportsmanship, and commendable individual efforts. Regular matches were played on seven mini tennis courts simultaneously, while the Final Rounds for each bracket were held independently at the end of the day.

We're very proud to announce our 2015 Jamboree winners:

10 & Under Bracket

Winner: Julius D., Lafayette Gardens

Runner-Up: Emeka A., Marcy

11 & Over Bracket

Winner: Jonathan D., Marcy

Runner-Up: Jovani A., Marcy

In addition to the tournament bracket trophies, we presented a new award--Player of the Year--to a student who maintained perfect attendance this season and who always tried his best. This award went to Jovani A., who was also the 11 & Over Bracket's Runner-Up.

As KCTL President & Founder Michael McCasland reminded us during the Awards Ceremony, there are very few winners in a tennis tournament. Because almost all participants leave the courts as losers, there's no reason for students to get angry at themselves--or at their opponents--because they didn't finish in first place.

Instead, participants are encouraged to look to the winners for inspiration--to mimic their dedication and consistency--in order to learn and grow as tennis players and as individuals.

With this in mind, we're immensely proud of every single one of our students. Congratulations to everyone who played with us this season! We look forward to returning to the courts together in 2016!

You can view all the photos from the 2015 Jamboree on Facebook.

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Week 15 Recap from Jackie Robinson

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Week 15 Recap from Jackie Robinson

Site Leader Michele says that the final week of class at Jackie Robison Park can only be described as bittersweet. She's extremely proud of all the hard work that her students and volunteers have put in over the past four months. She's incredibly grateful to have been able to work with such an amazing group.

JR September 19 Class

Although Michele and the rest of Jackie Robinson tennis club are saddened that this season is coming to a close, they are especially excited to be competing in the Jamboree next week. Since this is Jackie Robinson's inaugural season as part of KCTL, this is also their first time participating in the Annual Jamboree Tournament.

Class on Saturday focused on match play in preparation for the Jamboree. The site conducted a mock tournament to acclimate the students to competition. The friendly matches were fun and the children felt well-prepared for the Jamboree afterwards.

As a complement to the off-court session included a discussion about our expectations during the Jamboree as well as how was can continue to conduct ourselves with good sportsmanship.

The anticipation of our final stand at the Jamboree has everyone feeling a bit nervous--but, above all, excited. After their second-place finish at Davis Cup, Jackie Robinson is more motivated than ever to capture the number one spot at the Jamboree!

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#IServeBecause: Tiffany Oliver's Story

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#IServeBecause: Tiffany Oliver's Story

The establishment of Jackie Robinson Tennis Club is one of our proudest accomplishments this year. On the tennis courts beside the Brevoort Houses at Jackie Robinson Park, we're providing new opportunities for children and, as a result, providing something new for families.

Among those families is a woman named Tiffany Oliver, the devoted mother of two Jackie Robinson students, Aminah and Amaia, who are 11 and eight years old, respectively.

Tiffany-Oliver

Tiffany-Oliver

Tiffany is pictured here with her two daughters and their father, Jerry. Tiffany stands out as a parent who consistently supports her children from beyond the sidelines, and takes a vested interest in their tennis progress and personal development.

She was kind enough to enlighten us on her experiences with Jackie Robinson Tennis Club.

How did you and your daughters find out about Kings County Tennis League?

We saw flyers in the neighborhood before the season's start. We were immediately intrigued by the opportunity.

Prior to joining, had Aminah and Amaia ever played tennis before or did they know about tennis?

No, before joining KCTL, Aminah and Amaia had no experience playing tennis. However, they knew about the game and had always expressed an interest in playing because I played during my teenage years.

What have Amina and Amaia told you they like best the program?

Beyond playing tennis itself--they're most excited by the volunteers that they are working with. They're extremely helpful and friendly.

What do you personally like best about it?

I'm most pleased by everyone's positive attitudes. Everyone has been extraordinarily welcoming.

Do you think they will play again with us next summer?

Yes! I would love for the girls to participate again next year and in any other activities KCTL has available.

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Week 10 Recap from Jackie Robinson

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Week 10 Recap from Jackie Robinson

Saturday, August 8 was another productive day at Jackie Robinson Tennis Club. This week's class focused on footwork and learning more about match play.

The students were segmented into stations as usual. Our stations included a footwork obstacle course, running forehands and backhands, doubles matchplay that was similar to the Davis Cup format, and simplified serves.

Jackie-Robinson-August-8

Jackie-Robinson-August-8

Jackie Robinson Site Leader Michele Gee remains impressed by her students' progress. "They're improving so much!" exclaims Michele. "I really could not be prouder right now."

The off-court session, facilitated by our Site Coordinator, Christine, was a discussion about appreciating the differences in others, as well as recognizing how the characteristics that make us different also make us special. As always, the volunteers did an amazing job during this educational component of class. They are always super helpful and encouraging.

Team morale is still pretty high after our second place finish at Davis Cup. Not too shabby for the team that began playing tennis less than three months ago. Training for the final Jamboree tournament is in full effect!

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#IServeBecause: Michele Gee’s Story

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#IServeBecause: Michele Gee’s Story

Hailing from Staten Island, Michele Gee is no stranger to the tennis court. At a very young age, Michele was introduced to the sport by her father, a self-taught tennis player. It soon became the family sport, as her brother would eventually play and compete as well. Being exposed to the game early on and playing throughout her life has lead to unique and unforgettable experiences for Michele, on and off the court.

As Jackie Robinson’s first site leader, she brings her experience, aptitude, and passion to the program. We recently sat down with Michele to talk about KCTL and the reasons why she continues to love the game.

What attracted you to KCTL specifically?

I was initially attracted to KCTL because I just missed being out on the tennis court. I've played tennis my entire life and coached for several years as well and I couldn't help but miss working with children and teaching a sport that had such an incredible impact on my life. But the more I learned about KCTL and its mission to bring tennis--which is still considered an elitist sport--to children in underserved communities, I knew it was something amazing. I also knew that it was something I wanted to be a part of.

In your opinion, what's different about KCTL than what you've experienced compared to other organizations?

The off-court mentorship portion is the major difference. While tennis is a huge component of this program, it is not the only component. Teaching children about manners, sportsmanship, personal values, and managing emotions is paramount when it comes to their development. I find that the children are just as engaged during the off-court discussions as they are during any of the super fun tennis games that we play such as Breakout and Alligator.

How did tennis influence you during your childhood?

Tennis had a huge influence on my childhood and, ultimately, my life. My father, a South Carolina native who was raised in a poverty-stricken home, taught himself to play at the age of 10. He didn't realize it, but the choice he made to pick up a racquet would change his life and the lives of his children that would be born decades later. He taught my brother and I to play and, before we knew it, we were practicing every day and traveling to compete in tournaments every week. Tennis gave me an opportunity to travel to places I never thought I could go and to meet the most interesting people. It gave me confidence and taught me the value of hard work. Tennis allowed me to attend and graduate from Howard University on a full athletic scholarship. More importantly, tennis has given me the opportunity to work and mentor children while passing along all the wisdom and lessons that this great sport has taught me.

What's the absolute one thing that you want the kids to take away this summer?

The notion that they can achieve anything. When a child who has been struggling to hit a forehand finally hits a perfect shot over the net, there is no greater feeling. I watch as their face lights up and I feel a sense of joy because that child now knows that no matter how many times they failed at hitting a forehand in the past, success is possible. And success breeds confidence. I want the students to be confident in their ability to persevere no matter how difficult the task.

If you could choose to meet one tennis player throughout history, who would it be and why?

I would meet Althea Gibson. I'd ask her how she was able to rise from the destitute Harlem neighborhood where she was raised to center court at Wimbledon. I'd ask her how she survived the terrible racism that she had to endure with such grace and dignity. And lastly, I would want to thank her for paving the way for players like Serena Williams and Lori McNeil, and even a young African-American girl from Staten Island, like myself.

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Week 4 Recap

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Week 4 Recap

Well, our fourth week was going to be an extension of our lesson on forehands, but that turned out to be a bust, thanks to some ugly weather here in Brooklyn Saturday afternoon. We hate when that happens!

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FB_MARCY_001

In the meantime, keep up with the latest from KCTL's weekly sessions on our Facebook page or our Instagram account. We've been sharing a lot of photos of our students in action.

Fingers crossed we have clearer skies for our next class, Saturday, June 27.

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Week 3 Recap from Jackie Robinson

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Week 3 Recap from Jackie Robinson

We had another amazing Saturday at Jackie Robinson Tennis Club. It was the third week at Kings County Tennis League's newest site and attendance continues to grow. We had about 25 participants, the majority of whom were returning students.

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jackie-robinson-june13

We focused on basic footwork and coordination along with an introduction to the forehand. The class began with a warm-up and group stretch. We then split up into three groups that rotated among stations: a foot workstation using cones, a target practice station, and a forehand technique station. The kids are showing significant improvement and seem to really be enjoying themselves on the court. Due to the warm weather, we were sure to take plenty of water breaks.

Once each group had rotated through all the stations, our Site Coordinator, Christine, facilitated the off-court conversation. This week, Christine led a discussion about healthy expression of our emotions. Christine did an amazing job of engaging with the students and teaching them about different emotions--such as anger, jealousy, and sadness--and the best ways to cope. She made it very easy for the kids to share stories of times they experienced negative emotions and how they responded. She also encouraged the students to give examples of how they’ll better manage their emotions in the future.

We ended class with Breakout, which the students absolutely love. It's a fun-filled game that involves hitting forehands, running and catching. The students always have a great time with this game.

The highlight of class was calling out the names of the students who were able to borrow a racquet for the week because they had attended three classes. It was clear that the kids that were able to take a racquet home felt a great sense of accomplishment and pride and those that were not able to felt as though that had something substantial to strive towards. Overall, it was a great class with amazing volunteers and stellar students.

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Fifth Site, Jackie Robinson Tennis Club, Joins KCTL

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Fifth Site, Jackie Robinson Tennis Club, Joins KCTL

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There’s a new team on the court: Jackie Robinson Tennis Club. Watch out, Marcy, Tompkins, Lafayette Gardens and Sumner; you’ve got new competition in this year’s Jamboree!

Joining KCTL as the program’s fifth team, Jackie Robinson Tennis Club will serve the youth residents of Bed-Stuy’s Breevort Houses – literally in their backyard – at Jackie Robinson Park (341 Malcolm X Blvd). A NYC Parks Department facility, Jackie Robinson Park hosts four hard-surface tennis courts in excellent condition. The site’s youth athletes will represent their team in gray jerseys designed to resemble the Brooklyn Dodgers uniform worn by the park’s namesake.

Jackie Robinson Tennis Club is KCTL’s first site addition in three years; previously, Sumner Tennis Club, established in 2012, was the newest team. Located in southern Bed-Stuy a considerable distance from the other four teams’ sites, Jackie Robinson and the Brevoort Houses symbolize great progress in KCTL’s vision of all kids in Brooklyn enjoying regular access to tennis.

If you are the parent of a child living in the Brevoort Houses and would like to enroll your child in our weekly tennis program, please fill out our signup form.

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