Update from Kings County Tennis League - May 2018

Wrapping up the 2018 Winter Program

On Sunday, March 25, KCTL wrapped up our Indoor Winter Tennis Program! Based in Pratt Institute's Activities Resource Center (ARC) Building, this year's program was a huge success. Pratt's indoor tennis courts are located just outside of Bed-Stuy in Clinton Hill, a short distance from the five housing developments we serve. Winter lessons prioritized high-intensity tennis with an emphasis on form, placement, and consistency. 

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KCTL Hosts its Inaugural Team Challenge

On Tuesday, April 24, KCTL hosted a round-robin doubles tennis tournament at McCarren Park Tennis Center to benefit towards Kings County Tennis League's 2018 goals. These goals include the renovation of our Lafayette Gardens site, the enrichment of our tennis and life-skills program which will offer even more students the chance to benefit from extra sessions and the introduction of the new ACE Program focusing on the social and emotional development of our students.

KCTL’s Junior Board is Hosting a Fundraiser to Help Renovate Lafayette Gardens

On Friday, May 4, KCTL’s Junior Board is hosting their first fundraising event of the 2018 season. Spend Friday night at TBA in Brooklyn for a good cause—renovating the courts in Lafayette Gardens, a housing development in Bed-Stuy. First two drinks are on us!

Our goal is to renovate the Lafayette Gardens site to create a unique training facility for our students and the local community. The project will mean that all five KCTL sites have a physical tennis court and a permanent space for our students to hone their skills. We will build between three and five tennis courts of varying sizes to ensure all students can learn tennis at the same site, regardless of age and ability.

Where: TBA Brooklyn (395 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn)

When: 8:00pm - 11:00pm Friday, May 4

Tickets are $55 and are available below and at the door.


Starting up our new Pee Wee Program

KCTL is excited to announce that we are expanding our current programming with the addition of our new Pee Wee Tennis Program! Formed through a partnership with Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, this new program will offer four-year old BKS students at Sumner and Tompkins tennis classes midweek.

These 45 minute classes will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10:00AM - 12:00PM from now to November 1, 2018.

We're heading back to Lafayette Gardens, Marcy, Tompkins, Sumner, and Jackie Robinson

Season Opener: June 2 at all five KCTL sites. Can't wait to see you there!

Student Enrollment: Reserve a space for your child; register here

Volunteer Registration: Are you around to inspire kids through tennis this summer? Let us know.

To prep for our summer season, KCTL is once again hosting our annual Play Days at three of our sites.

  • Play Day #1: 10:00AM - 12:00PM Saturday, May 5 at Jackie Robinson

  • Play Day #2: 10:00AM - 12:00PM Saturday, May 12 at Lafayette Gardens

  • Play Day #3: 10:00AM - 12:00PM Saturday, May 19 at Sumner



Starting June 2, we we will be enriching our female students with an all girls tennis and education class that will enable many girls to participate in tennis and life-skills lessons. Our goal is to increase female participation throughout our programming by engaging and empowering our female students. 

Register to Volunteer

Register a Student

Upswing Program

This summer, we are developing our Upwing Program so that it will run at multiple sites during the week and on Saturday afternoons. The Upswing Program will enable many students to benefit from tennis and fitness sessions to improve technique, introduce strategy and matchplay scenarios and further their commitment to the sport. Through the Upswing Program we intend to have our first students compete in USTA sanctioned tournaments by the end of the year.

KCTL Sees Two New Staff Updates for 2018

KCTL is pleased to announce two changes in staff for 2018: Dave Webley, previously Program Manager, has been appointed our first-ever Executive Director. Taking Dave’s place is 2017 Marcy Site Leader Rob Gerstman.

The commitment to KCTL that Dave and Rob demonstrate will be valuable to the organization as we continue to learn and grow in the community. In 2018 alone, we aim to install youth tennis courts at the Lafayette Gardens site, introduce our new Pee Wee Program through partnership with Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, and increase more educational opportunities. 

See what both Dave and Rob have to say about their new roles:

                                        Dave Webley, Executive Director

                                        Dave Webley, Executive Director

"I am thrilled and honored to lead KCTL into its next phase of growth. I’m looking forward to working with everyone to continue delivering our mission by providing structured and meaningful tennis and life skills lessons for our KCTL students. By further developing the KCTL pathway, we will work to ensure that every one of our students has access to regular physical exercise and is given the opportunity to follow their dreams.” - Dave Webley

                                                                   Rob Gerstman, Program Manager

                                                                   Rob Gerstman, Program Manager

"It was my pleasure and privilege to be the Site Leader at Marcy last summer. I gained a lot of valuable experience and learned so much from the students, staff, volunteers, and families. Lots of fond memories were made teaching in the inaugural season of the Upswing and Go Girls Go! programs and these were just the beginning of a long journey together. Thanks for the opportunity to be your Program Manager. I look forward to sharing in the growth of the KCTL community.” - Rob Gerstman

KCTL Receives 2017 Member Organization of the Year Award from USTA Eastern

KCTL Receives 2017 Member Organization of the Year Award from USTA Eastern

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On Saturday, January 27, Kings County Tennis League was awarded the prestigious 2017 Member Organization of the Year Award by USTA Eastern at their annual awards dinner. KCTL was recognized for “its innovative use of tennis as an instrument for youth development and community building in underserved neighborhoods in Brooklyn.”

While honoring KCTL for this award, USTA Eastern referenced many of the historic feats our organization accomplished in 2017, including but not limited to completing our restoration project of the Sumner Houses Court, creating two youth-sized tennis courts at the Tompkins Houses Courtyard, and finishing our first full year of tennis programming, which includes fall, winter, and summer seasons. This was all completed while continuing to effectively serve the over 150 students in Bedford Stuyvesant that participate in our programming.


“As a supporter of many tennis and learning programs, the KCTL story is one of our section’s favorites,” said Jenny Schnitzer, executive director and chief operations officer of USTA Eastern. “We are beyond proud of what Michael McCasland started and the continued work of KCTL’s staff and volunteers in making tennis more accessible to children who may not otherwise had an opportunity to play our sport.”

Receiving this award from USTA Eastern serves as a great boost to KCTL as we head full bore into our Indoor Winter Tennis Program which starts this Saturday, February 3, at Pratt Institute. We look forward to seeing everyone on the courts soon, and to continue to build upon all we accomplished in 2017!

Preview of KCTL's 2018 Winter Tennis Program

Preview of KCTL's 2018 Winter Tennis Program

Serving as a well-timed reprieve from this intense winter weather, we are excited to say that Kings County Tennis League (KCTL) will be back on the courts in less than a month!

On Saturday, February 3, KCTL will kick off this year’s Indoor Winter Tennis Program at Pratt Institute. 2018 will be our second year of year-round programming and everyone is looking forward to returning to tennis with our students!

Registration for the eight-week session reached capacity after just seven days which really goes to show how excited our students are to expand upon the skills they have learned in the summer and fall. Building on this base, this year’s Winter Program will continue to teach the fundamentals of tennis, facilitate strategy development on the court, and introduce specialty shots such as drop shots and lobs.

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“The eight-week Winter Program will focus on reinforcing correct grips and technique along with developing hand-eye coordination for the younger students and improving fitness and movement for the older students,” said Dave Webley, elaborating on Winter lesson plans. “A specially designed fitness program will be implemented as one of the stations so the students can look forward to a great Saturday morning workout along with plenty of tennis action!”

Much like last year’s Winter Program, KCTL will once again host a running series of field trips for its students in addition to time spent on the courts. One trip already scheduled is an outing to the tennis expo day at the New York Open on February 10, which is guaranteed to be an action packed day of tennis for all ages.

Alongside a large group of faithful volunteers and our Program Manager, Dave Webley, this year’s Winter Program’s staff will also include Kim Diehl and Shonda Bacchus, who work together at the Sumner site during the Summer Program.

We look forward to seeing you all in February!

KCTL's 2017 Fall Classic Photo Gallery

Saturday, November 4, ended up being a beautiful day for KCTL to hold our 2nd Annual Fall Classic Tennis Tournament. Kids from around the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and beyond gathered at Marcy Playground for an afternoon of friendly competition in what proved to be an appropriate finale to this year's Fall After-School Tennis Program.

Below is a photo slideshow of the day courtesy of Ephraim Kirkwood.

KCTL Facebook Fundraiser - A How To Guide

KCTL Facebook Fundraiser - A How To Guide

As you probably gathered from recent e-mails, social media posts, and our transition to year-round programming, 2017 has been an incredibly eventful and successful year for KCTL. Here is a brief selection of highlights that made 2017 so special:

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This is just a small sampling of everything that happened this year, so we now turn our attention to 2018 where there is a way you can help us provide even more programming and continue to grow KCTL. Our major goals are to renovate Lafayette Gardens, increase tennis and educational programming, and to partner with an early education program to offer a new KCTL "Pee Wee" tennis class!

If you are on Facebook and want to help try and raise funds for KCTL and our goals for 2018, there is a very simple and effective way to do this. As the year nears an end we are reaching out to all our past donors with a final ask for 2017. Below is a document that explains the steps:

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KCTL 2nd Annual Fall Classic Tennis Tournament

KCTL 2nd Annual Fall Classic Tennis Tournament

This past Saturday, November 4th, KCTL’s 2nd Annual Fall Classic took place at Marcy Playground in what turned out to be a great finale to this year’s Fall After-School Program. With two divisions split by age and ability, intermediate and advanced, the tournament itself was a great representation of the five, fun-filled weeks of lessons and friendly play that all the kids worked so hard in.


With the fall program being just one pillar of our recently implemented year-round programming, all the students have improved so much and with that their commitment levels have increased, too. This commitment is just one of the factors that led to this year's Fall Classic being such a success.

An exciting thing to note about this weekend is that after plenty of practice during the Fall After-School program, the advanced students served overhead in their matches. This is an important step in these young player’s development for it will prepare them for when they play USTA tournaments in the near future.


Additionally, this weekend featured a first for our organization: KCTL invited students from another tennis organization to compete. We were thrilled and delighted to have four players from our friends, HQ Tennis.

Here are the results of the tournament:

The intermediate division was won by Jamar Thomas (aged 9) from HQ Tennis, who defeated Katelynn Espinosa (aged 7) from Sumner Tennis Club. The advanced final was won by Jonathan Del Rosario (aged 12) from Marcy Tennis Club, who defeated AJ Esperanza (aged 12) from Sumner Tennis Club. 


Congratulations to all competitors for a fantastic end to the Fall After-School Program and a big thanks to staff members Adam Joyce and Gary Robinson for running such a great Program. Go KCTL!

Weeks 1-3 Recap of KCTL'S Fall After-School Tennis Program

Rolling into the second half of KCTL’s Fall After-School Program, site leader Adam Joyce has covered three overarching aspects of tennis: preparation, margin for error, and tactics. 

Here is how Adam has incorporated these important themes into class so far:


In the first week, we discussed the many ways to be prepared to play tennis. We practice often, and we practice hard, so we're ready to meet challenges on the court. We also think ahead about what we need to do on the court in order to meet our goals.

Most important, we discussed and worked on all the ways to prepare to make every shot. We stay focused on the ball and our position on the court. We stay in the ready position until we know where the ball is going. We take the racket back early. We move our feet early and use proper technique to sidestep to the ball. And we hustle to make sure the ball stays in front of us.

Most of our drills emphasized techniques of groundstrokes, volleys, and serves. Coaches feed the balls to students and worked on the most basic components of these shots. We ran some sprints to demonstrate sidestepping and backpedaling, and we ended each day with competitions like king of the court and breakout.



Once you learn the mechanics of strokes, you can start to think about how to hit the ball into the court consistently. This requires attention to margin for error. There are many elements to achieving margin. The low-to-high stroke ensures height above the net. Aiming cross court gives you a longer distance to hit into. And controlling your body - not rushing, not swinging hard, not running while swinging - makes it more likely that your shot will go in the direction you intend it to.

This week, we focused on the mechanics of hitting crosscourt, performing drills and playing games that reward those safe shots. We also worked on achieving height over the net, as well as depth. While we played singles competitions on the big court, we also played volley games in the handball area.



Because we are gearing up for a tournament on November 4, we have started to think about how to win points. The students first brainstormed about how we might try to win a point - aside from achieving margin fire error. They suggested: moving the opponent from side to side; not just following a recognizable pattern; hitting short balls; hitting deep balls; hitting to where the opponent is not.

We first practiced changing patterns by hitting two balls crosscourt and one down the line. We also played a game where one player hit crosscourt and the other went down the line.

Most important, we have been working on playing points against each other - especially starting with overhand serving. The players, from the advanced to the beginner - are getting the hang of how to rally and how to construct a point.

KCTL 2017 Jamboree Photo Gallery

On September 23, the weather around Brooklyn gave kids from around the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood a summer welcome as they trickled into the Marcy playground for the Kings County Tennis League's 8th Annual Youth Tournament & Community Jamboree.

As Michael and Kim prepared the tournament draw -- -- kids set up the courts, drilled and then competed in the single-elimination tournament for the 10-and-under division and a round robin for the 11-and-over group. Below is a photo slideshow of the day, including the final rounds and trophy presentation. 

Week 15 Recap: The 8th Annual KCTL Jamboree

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.

Michael Rojas and Kim Diehl prepare the Jamboree tournament draw. 

Michael Rojas and Kim Diehl prepare the Jamboree tournament draw. 

"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. 

Early rounds for the KCTL kids had the 10-and-under sector in serious competition. 

Early rounds for the KCTL kids had the 10-and-under sector in serious competition. 

"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."

Julius shows off a mean backhand in the semi-final round. 

Julius shows off a mean backhand in the semi-final round. 

The crowds gather to watch the final match between Xavier and Jonathan of Marcy. 

The crowds gather to watch the final match between Xavier and Jonathan of Marcy. 

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. 

Michael McCasland, assisted by Marcy site leader, present trophies to the winners of the tournament and the kids who best embody KCTL principles. 

Michael McCasland, assisted by Marcy site leader, present trophies to the winners of the tournament and the kids who best embody KCTL principles. 

"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."

Week 14 Recap from Lafayette Gardens

The final Lafayette Gardens class of the summer season began with a quick warm up before students were divided into groups. The more advanced students focused on one on one tournaments. Those waiting for their turn at a one on one either played doubles on a different court or practiced their form by hitting against the wall. Beginner students worked on their formand their ability to make contact with the ball at their courts. 

During the off-court session we discussed sportsmanship and how it can be be manifested at the Jamboree. At the end of class we played two different group tennis themed group games. A few students used the last 15 minutes to practice hitting with volunteers to get in more practice for the Jamboree. 

Once class ended, LG parents hosted a pizza party on the playground for students and volunteers. It was a great way to end the last class on the playground. 


Retro Racquet Bash 2017: Celebrating the Classic Pros and Feting Future Ones

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On September 7, M1-5 Lounge was transformed from a swank TriBeCa club to 1970s Forest Hills, as the Kings County Tennis League (KCTL) held court to honor its players, revere in its 7th year and laud its future. 

The Retro Racquet Bash -- KCTL's annual 1970s tennis gala  -- drew more than 200 guests from the ranks of volunteers, parents and KCTL fans to drink, eat, try their best to look like Bjorn Brig and watch the women's U.S. Open Semifinal. While following Sloane Stephens -- previously ranked No. 973 in the world -- make quick work of No. 3 Venus Williams, KCTL fans dreamed of sending their charges to Flushing someday.

"With your help, we have had an amazingly successful year," said Michael McCasland, the founder and president of KCTL, before listing off the programs launched, courts restored and students reached, including two who earned scholarships to training academies. "We're not stopping until every kid in our neighborhoods has access to tennis."

Highlights of the night were in high supply -- as vintage racquets were passed around for a variety of creative party photos -- but many would say that hearing KCTL student-turned-volunteer Brandon Otero tell the story of how he came to KCTL and learned tennis marked the upmost  point of the evening. Otero now attends the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), where he studies Business Administration. 

In addition to Otero, McCasland and Board Chair, Adam Stolz honored volunteers of the year, Chase Altneu, Ephraim Kirkwood and Krystal Atwater with hand-framed photographs of the KCTL teams. District 36 City Councilor Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., who represents Bedford Stuyvesant and northern Crown Heights, also received an award for his involvement with the court renovation and other KCTL projects. 

In 2017, KCTL reached 195 children, up 18 percent from 2016, and trained 126 volunteers. up 14 percent from 2016.  It has expanded to a comprehensive year-round program, formed Upswing, an enrichment program for our most talented and dedicated students, and introduced an all-girls tennis clinic called Go Girl Go! to foster self-confidence and a passion for physical activity among female students

Below are a few photos from the event. To order or view more, check out KCTL's Facebook Page!

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Week 13 Recap from Marcy

This week, the Marcy Club reviewed techniques for the major components of the game and developed their skills in singles competition to prepare for the upcoming Jamboree on September 23rd.

Marcy also had a photographer from the Daily News come out for a story about KCTL that ran on Sunday, 10 September! A journalist interviewed several staff and players throughout the session and they had a good time talking tennis. Here is the story.

Among the volunteers, Olivia led the Ladder Station to focus on “court” movement with racquet preparation. Rohun and Pooja targeted the serve by teaching a proper toss and practicing shoulder movement. Evan led his group in volleying, encouraging proper crossover steps and punching,  before mixing in some game play, which the kids really enjoyed. Chase led a session on proper groundstroke technique and point playing to prepare for the jamboree. Lucca, Jenny, and Brandon practiced hitting and recovering in all the moves of the game. They played the crowd-pleaser “King” of the court in singles -- Jenny spent a lot of the time as Queen.

The Education Session asked the students to think critically about the things they learned this summer and how they could apply them to their goals for the upcoming year, with volunteers leading small group discussions. There was lots of smiling and laughing all round -- everyone had a lot of fun with this. Thereafter, two groups played breakout and the other, King of the Court. Those on the main court participated in a Team Singles competition. 

At the end of the session, we all huddled up and did shout outs to our stand outs:

Ladder Station: Ada
Serving Station: Emeka
Volleying Station: Nour
Groundstrokes/ Points Station: Kyree
Main Court: Zion

Thanks Volunteers. One more Saturday and then it’s time for the Jamboree!

Go Marcy!

Members of the Kings County Tennis League hone their skills in Brooklyn on the corner of Marcy and Nostrand Aves. (ALEX RUD/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Members of the Kings County Tennis League hone their skills in Brooklyn on the corner of Marcy and Nostrand Aves. (ALEX RUD/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Week 12 Recap from Tompkins

Week 12 Recap from Tompkins

For class this week, he team was part of the Tompkins Houses Block party!

The streets were closed off, providing us with the perfect space to play tennis. Neighbors hosted barbecues, played games, and invited a DJ to play music throughout the day.

Our tennis team set up class in the middle of the street. All kids in the community were invited to play tennis with us. Many did join or stayed to watch.

We started with drills at four stations: Forehand, Backhand, Volley, and a Surprise Station. Players had to jump from one station to the next keeping them moving and keeping their skills sharp. This format was also a great way to give the other community players a chance to hit. We then played a variety of other games from musical racquets to relay races to tennis caterpillar. 

Overall, it was a great day and many residents in the neighborhood who had not heard of KCTL were excited to learn about us and are hoping to enroll their children for the next season. 

Week 11 Recap from Sumner

Week 11 Recap from Sumner

We have a new tennis court (but its appearance is a surprise, hence the photo in this post)!

On Saturday, our group marked the important occasion by playing full court tennis against each other, which was a first at Sumner. We had four students and two volunteers (great job, Mike and Adam!) who paired up to play Champion of the Court for almost an hour. That was the first time our entire group played points against each other at Sumner, given the varying levels of abilities and ages.

Two of our youngest players experienced dramatic improvement over the course of one hour. Both girls, Nilda and Annahlis, bravely stepped up to play points with older players. Their confidence grew each time they made contact with the ball and they both surprised their opponents by hitting several winners.

We also practiced giving each other positive support when a player lost interest, felt discouraged or intimidated. All four Sumner students who participated on Saturday walked off the court with renewed confidence and enjoyment for the game.

It was an excellent day to mark an important moment for Sumner Tennis Club.