Meet Omar Bailey: a new volunteer at Kings County Tennis League's Marcy site. A Brooklynite by way of Florida in his early 30s, Omar is a self-described tennis fanatic who discovered the sport only a few years ago. Having grown up with almost no exposure to tennis, Omar is ecstatic to share his newly found passion with children who--if not for individuals like himself--would otherwise miss out on the game's enormous benefits.
What sports did you and your friends/peers play as children?
Just basketball, baseball, and football. Not tennis.
So, what, if anything, did you know about tennis as a child?
I knew of Serena and Venus Williams, but I didn't know much about the game. I only watched from time to time if my father happened to be watching, which was not often.
How and when did you discover tennis?
Three years ago, my girlfriend, Allison, introduced me to the sport. We went to the US Open together, where I witnessed firsthand how powerful the tennis pros are. I fell in love with the game immediately.
How did tennis become a passion following that introduction?
Just a few days after the US Open, Allison and I bought tennis racquets to play ourselves and I really enjoyed it. From there, I enrolled in lessons, began watching professional matches religiously (I even subscribed to the Tennis Channel!), and became obsessed with everything tennis. With lots of practice, I've advanced my NTRP rating to a respectable 3.5. I play in two different local tennis leagues and actually won the final tournament in one of them this past winter. I'm excited about improving my game every time I play.
What personal benefits have you experienced as a result of playing the sport?
The mental battle of tennis is the aspect that has helped me the most. I'm already a pretty patient guy, but playing tennis--playing for yourself--really makes you focus and think step-by-step about what you want and need to accomplish. The other benefit is the exercise. Tennis is a great, enjoyable way to work out and stay in shape. I would prefer to play tennis for two hours than run on a treadmill any day.
How has your experience as a volunteer at Marcy been so far?
It's been great! The kids are awesome and I can see that they are enjoying their new surroundings and playing tennis. I was very impressed with one of our recent off-court discussions about anger management. The kids were so open to sharing their feelings and thoughts and articulated themselves so well. That was sort of my "aha moment." It became clear to me what we are trying to accomplish and teach the kids other than just playing tennis.
How have the absence of tennis in your childhood and your subsequent discovery of the game influenced your role as a volunteer/mentor at KCTL?
I grew up in South Florida amongst tennis courts and the USTA facilities where all the top players would train--but I had no clue that I was within arms reach of the sport. I would not want a child to miss out on tennis if I knew they would enjoy it. The nice thing about tennis is that it does not matter how tall, fast, or strong you are, although those things can be helpful. You just have to show up and be willing to listen, learn, and have fun.