Week 6: Recap from Marcy

Week 6: Recap from Marcy

Following a break from tennis for Independence Day Weekend, our Marcy students eagerly returned to the courts on Saturday, July 9.

July is Cognitive Awareness Month. We lightly introduced the concept at the beginning of class, but dug deeper during the off-court segment. After stretches and warm-up laps, we played a game that tested our reasoning and judgment. We began standing in the center of court's north side as a group, surrounded by three sets of cones--green, yellow, and blue--in various corners of the court. When our Site Leader, Lucca, announced a color, we ran as a group to the corresponding set of cones. The game not only tested our students' endurance, but their ability to make rational decisions in response to cues. At one point during the game, Lucca called out, "Red!" as a test of judgment. About a third of the students and volunteers began to run toward the nonexistent set of red cones. The drill was a great mental and physical challenge.

Tennis lessons for the day prioritized forehand and backhand volleys. For some students, the no-swing, powerful punch was an easy review, and for others it was an introduction to something completely new. Students participated in stations including a groundstroke-volley combination drill, Volley-Style Champion of the Court, targets, and a racquet-free exercises including squats.

Following our station rotation, our volunteers administered individual paper surveys on Cognitive Awareness. Most students were unfamiliar with the fairly advanced concept, but we hope that by end of the July, they will have a strong understanding.

Next, our Educational Coordinator, Gary, asked everyone to pair up. Most pairs consisted of volunteer and one student. One partner was given a tennis ball, and the other was instructed to obtain the tennis ball from their counterpart "using any means necessary"--safely, of course.

Most student-volunteer pairs ran unnecessarily in circles trying to swat the ball out of the other's hand. But one team completed the exercise correctly. They didn't run. They didn't scream. One partner merely politely asked the other for the ball. So the best way to get the ball was not through a physical contest, but through use of conversation and emotions.

Week 5: Recap from Tompkins (Family Day)

Week 5: Recap from Tompkins (Family Day)

Saturday, June 25 marked our annual Family Day initiative, a day on which students can invite a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin, grandparent, or friend to their KCTL site. As usual, we had a strong turnout from family members--both those who were daring enough to join the kids on the court, and those who preferred to cheer from the sidelines. We appreciated all of our special visitors, no matter their level of participation!

At Tompkins, students practiced their groundstrokes--both forehands and backhands--to combine lessons from recent weeks. The kids were proud to show off their improvement to their family members.

The off-court session wrapped up June's Healthy Choices Month. Kate, Tompkins' Educational Coordinator, instructed the students to explain what they had already learned about nutrition to their guests. Teaching others is the best way to reinforce what you have already learned!

Also during the off-court session, the students participated in the Fitness Challenge. Site Leader Tina remarked how proud she was of her students' abilities to perform push-ups, shuttle runs, and situps!

To wrap up the session, the class played two family-friendly games: Caterpillar and Breakout. A few of the older students stepped in as leaders during these games to assist the younger students, demonstrating big leaps in their maturity and independence.

#NothingTopsTennis: Using Our Tennis Court to Teach Healthy Choices

#NothingTopsTennis: Using Our Tennis Court to Teach Healthy Choices

June is Healthy Choices Month at Kings County Tennis League. Our students have participated in a series of off-court discussions about nutrition and exercise, and this coming weekend, during Family Day, we’re having a fitness challenge!

At Lafayette Gardens, where there is no physical tennis court, but a large open blacktop space with portable nets and hand-drawn lines, Educational Coordinator Ari recently led an informational, interactive game called “This or That.” Quite fantastically, the game combines exercise and nutrition!

Ari presented her students with two different foods—each set at opposite ends of the court—and directed them to decide which is nutritionally superior. They were instructed to declare their choice by running to the end of the court at which the perceived healthier food was located.

The decisions were individual, not team-based. Each child independently ran to the side that reflected his or her own personal opinion. After each sprint to a food choice, Ari led a discussion about which choice was, in fact, nutritionally better and why. It was definitely an excellent educational opportunity for all of the participants.

Lafayette Gardens may lack a real tennis court, but, evidently, this cannot stop the team from using its makeshift tennis surface in a creative way. Most of us look at a tennis court and see only one purpose: to play a specific game. But at KCTL, we use the tennis court—"real" or not—for activities and lessons of all kinds.   

Week 4: Recap from Sumner

Week 4: Recap from Sumner

Class this week at Sumner was amazing! We continued practicing backhands after introducing them last week.

Class started out with a quick warmup and stretching with all the volunteers and students. We also played a few quick games of Tennis Freeze Tag. The students had to balance a ball on their racquets while walking around the court. If tagged, they became "frozen" and had to wait for a teammate to unfreeze them. The game would end whenever all the participants were frozen.

Following Freeze Tag, students were divided by age into two groups. Our stations for the week were backhand, fitness, hand-eye, and self-hit forehand. 

During the off-court discussion led by our Educational Coordinator, Meredith, we discussed strength training and cardio training. To better understand strength training, students watched one volunteer, Nick, perform push-ups and another volunteer, Amanda, perform a plank--both in perfect form! While we were done with our discussion, the kids enjoyed Kind Bars as a healthy snack.

Our last activity for the day was Breakout with backhands. The kids did an amazing job with their backhands. Katelynn, one of our youngest Sumner participants, was declared the winner!

We finished the day by gathering together, putting our hands all in, and cheering out, "Sumner!"

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 2: Recap from Lafayette Gardens

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Week 2: Recap from Lafayette Gardens

The second week of Lafayette Gardens began with additional introductions from students and volunteers. To help everyone get to know each other better, LG's Site Leader, Efi, directed each student and volunteer to give their name and a fact about him or herself. All who shared the same fact raised their hands as each person took a turn.

Warmups followed with three laps around the nets and stretches. Racquets were distributed and students were divided into groups. 

There were two groups of beginners and two groups of more advanced students. The more advanced students practiced control, guiding the ball in a certain direction, some backhand drills, and participated in some volleying games. Newer students practiced control as well through drills of bouncing the ball upward and downward. They reviewed the ready, step back, and swing with follow through positions before utilizing them while balls were fed.. 

During our off-court session, Ari, our Educational Coordinator, discussed healthy food choices as KIND Bars were handed out (YUM!). Volunteers then helped students fill out a survey that measured students' knowledge of food and nutrition.

To finish, students were back on the court for an exciting game of Scramble. After Scramble, the students circled up with hands in the center and yelled, "Lafayette Gardens!" as their arms came up.

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2016 Season Opener at Marcy

2016 Season Opener at Marcy

We’re back! On Saturday, May 28, we launched our seventh season of bringing tennis to the kids of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

About 35 students and 15 volunteers turned out at our biggest and oldest tennis club, Marcy. How different it looked from Marcy’s first go six years ago—on that day, not a single student showed up, the court and surrounding grounds were left empty. How far we have come! On Saturday, the tennis court at Marcy Playground roared with energy, surrounded by parents, residents, and other supportive onlookers.

Our student participants were divided into groups by skill and age to practice various skills, drills, and games at learning stations—including rallying, fitness and footwork, and ball passing.

The Off-Court discussion has taken a new format for 2016. Rather than dedicating a station to Off-Court, all volunteers and students will participate in the conversation together under the direction of the Educational Coordinator.

This week’s topic was light; we played a fun name game to facilitate introductions. Everyone individually announced their first name along with a fruit, vegetable, or sport that begins the with the same letter as their name. A six-year-old student, Kyle, took first place for the most creative use of K with Kayaking. Quality Tennis, Lemons, Mangoes, Ice Skating, and Broccoli are honorable mentions.

We wrapped up with two games of breakout and the team cheer. We are looking forward to a strong season of self-improvement, sportsmanship, and fun.

Five "Big Picture" Lessons You'll Learn at Volunteer Training

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Five "Big Picture" Lessons You'll Learn at Volunteer Training

Our first volunteer training session is only two days away! Training co-hosts Deputy Executive Director Emily Roller and Director of Programming Meredith Brown are ecstatic to share the 2016 curriculum with new and returning volunteers.

The first two-and-a-half-hour workshop will be held on Saturday, April 16 at 1:00 PM in Jackie Robinson Park. The following group session is scheduled for Saturday, April 23 at the same time.

We'll review the curriculum, tennis drills, and safety. Beyond these areas, you what can you expect to learn? Here are five "big picture" lessons we hope you'll take away from your workshop:

  1. The Importance of Setting Expectations. You are the leader, so you must clearly let children know what they can and cannot do before each activity. Setting expectations prior to play helps to minimize conflicts.
     
  2. Your Position as a Role Model. Your students will mimic your actions and words. If you act disinterested or remain silent, they will, too. But if you display enthusiasm and keep the conversation going, the children will follow suit.
     
  3. Honest and Open Communication. Unless you work with children on a daily basis or you are a parent, communicating with our participants will seem challenging in the beginning. In general, you can build trust with your students by being open and asking questions without making assumptions.
     
  4. The Significance of Repetition.  Our off-court, educational lessons will frequently apply to tennis, so, whenever possible, tie activities back to terminology from our curriculum's core themes: healthy choices, cognitive awareness, and grit and resilience. Repetition reinforces learning for children.
     
  5. Dedication to your Students' Success. We bring tennis to the kids not for our benefit, but for theirs: to provide participants with new experiences and to expose them to new people and possibilities. Your biggest priority should always be the value students receive from KCTL.

If you've yet to register as a volunteer or for a training session, please follow the instructions here. We look forward to seeing everyone in the coming weeks. Here's to a great season!

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Emily Roller, Deputy Executive Director, Joins KCTL Leadership Team

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Emily Roller, Deputy Executive Director, Joins KCTL Leadership Team

Our Board of Directors is proud to appoint Emily Roller as Deputy Executive Director, a new role created in preparation for the 2016 tennis season. Emily has been a volunteer at Marcy for the past two years. 

Prior to joining KCTL, Emily was a high school English teacher and tennis coach in Baltimore City Schools for three years, an account executive for a software company for two years, and has been a working as a writer and opera librettist for the past three years in Brooklyn. Emily holds a BA in English from Yale, an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University, and an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from New York University. She is passionate about education (and tennis!) and is very excited to join the team.

As Deputy Executive Director, Emily will oversee Programming and Grant Strategyincluding recruitment, programming goals, fundraising initiatives, and new partnerships. She will help us in our goal to "deepen" our impact by focusing more effort on the mentoring side of our program, partnering with other organizations, reaching more students in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, and finding ways to make even more of an impact on the lives of our participants. 

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Change Kids' Lives through Tennis as a Volunteer

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Change Kids' Lives through Tennis as a Volunteer

It's official: We are accepting applications from individuals aged 16+ who are ready to activate the KCTL mission: Bringing Tennis to the Kids.

Tennis skills are appreciated, but not required. Most of all, we are interested in positive attitudes and a passion for inspiring and motivating children in underserved communities.

Most of our volunteer opportunities are "on the ground"--on the tennis courts, blacktops, and playgrounds surrounding public housing developments in Bed-Stuy. This is a biweekly commitment from May 28 to October 1 at an assigned teaching site. To quality, current and prospective volunteers must complete one training session on April 16 or 23.

Additionally, we're open to meeting volunteers who can share their skills in Fundraising, Event Planning, Grant Writing, Photography, Videography, Web Design/Development, and Public Relations.

Registration

  • Complete our general volunteer signup form.

  • Register for one of two mandatory training sessions in April.

We look forward to meeting you!

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Students Explore Entrepreneurship, Individual Passion at Shoe Factory Visit

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Students Explore Entrepreneurship, Individual Passion at Shoe Factory Visit

Saturday, February 6 marked a special day in Kings County Tennis League's off-season. Our youth athletes enjoyed a unique educational experience--off the tennis court--at a footwear factory in the Garment District of Midtown, Manhattan.

shoe-factory-field-trip

shoe-factory-field-trip

The field trip was the latest installment in our series of efforts to inspire our youngsters through non-tennis enrichment. The event comes as a follow-up to our 2015 Google visit, which exposed the students to a new possibility, a career in the Technology sector with the world's biggest employer. Both field trips function as "real life" applications of our Off-Court Curriculum, which aims to help our students develop life skills outside of tennis.

Our host, Marcy Tennis Club Volunteer Omar Bailey, graciously welcomed 30 students and 15 parents to the factory, his workplace. He's the co-founding partner of Modern Vice, a luxury shoe brand that is designed, developed, and manufactured right here in our city. Omar's factory is one of the last remaining sites of its kind in Manhattan.

As young as age nine, Omar dreamed of working in the footwear design industry. After gigs with big name brands like Nike, though, Omar was ready to take his career to the next level as an entrepreneur. Omar has created masterpieces for celebrities including Shaquille O'Neill, Terry Crews, Lady Gaga, and QuestLove.

The experience strongly inspired the students, especially the few who said they're aspiring footwear designers. Professional dreams aside, the machinery, the manufacturing process, the creative work, and, of course, the finished products kept all of the students fully engaged. At the end of the tour and presentation from Omar, we challenged students with the question "What's your shoe story?" We asked the students to draw, explain, and name their own shoe.

Shoe design and manufacturing might have little to do with tennis, but we like that entrepreneurship--an individual, risky endeavor that requires belief in oneself--can be connected to our favorite individual sport. "You don't always have to go for the obvious," Omar told his listeners on Saturday. "If there is something you want to do, be confident and believe you do it."

Visit us on Facebook for more photos from the field trip.

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#GivingTuesday 2015: Your Gift Will Make a Difference

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#GivingTuesday 2015: Your Gift Will Make a Difference

DSC_0759-e1448935470302.jpg

This Giving Tuesday, you can make a tangible difference for Kings County Tennis League. Through the end of 2015, we are looking for your support on three key goals. Read on to learn how you can be a part of our victory.

Three Goals for 2016

Establish two new sites. KCTL wants to grow its program to sixth and seventh locations in 2016. Each expansion costs $10,000 and we don't want to cut corners!

Jackie-Robinson-team
Jackie-Robinson-team

Renovate a tennis court. We'd like to renovate one of our existing locations— a dilapidated tennis court right in the middle of Sumner Houses in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn— with a new surface and an actual net. This $20,000 renovation will ensure that children at Sumner Houses have a safe place to play and learn.

Sumner Tennis Court
Sumner Tennis Court

Educate through new, non-tennis experiences. After taking the kids to Google earlier this year, we have a trip planned to an actual sneaker factory in Manhattan, but we need your help to raise $1,000 to fund it. Students will learn how a sneaker is actually made, see what it takes to run and operate a production schedule, and explore the path to entrepreneurship.

KCTL Google
KCTL Google

Click here to make your tax-deductible contribution!

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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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