New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) Enjoys Action at 2013 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships
FLUSHING, NY (Nov. 12) - The children of New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) flocked to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Saturday morning to watch play at the 2013 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, hosted by Columbia University.
The day began with tours of the grounds guided by Columbia players, coaches and tournament staff. The young boys and girls were then taken into the tennis center and given pennants to be signed by players and coaches. The second floor viewing platform was flooded with children eager to meet the top talents in the collegiate tennis scene.
Zoe Scandalis of USC signing autographs
Columbia head women's tennis coach Ilene Weintraub said her players were happy to help.
"My players were very excited for the opportunity to meet and greet with aspiring tennis players from the NYJTL," Weintraub said. "It was especially exciting for me because I grew up playing with the NYJTL. I know what a fantastic organization it is and how much opportunity they provide for young people that need some support."
NYJTL Senior Tennis Program Manager York Chu noted that the organization is dedicated to getting underprivileged children the boost they need.
"The organization is great," Chu said. "This is my 50th year in tennis. It's really what I wanted to do; give back to the game of tennis. NYJTL exposes about 50,000 kids to tennis. Being the Senior Tennis Program Manager, I'm involved with every facet."
After autograph seeking came to a close, the NYJTL group moved downstairs to get some lunch. Also served up were some stories and friendly tips from players.
"They accompanied the young boys and girls on a tour of Arthur Ashe Stadium, then sat down with them while they ate lunch and spoke to them about their own personal stories about how they got involved in tennis and answered all their questions," Weintraub said.
The children then returned upstairs or went to bleachers set near the courts to view the men's and women's semifinal singles matches. Weintraub said exposing the kids to more college tennis is in the works.
"We plan on continuing to have a relationship with these kids by inviting them to our matches during the spring season and hopefully teaching them a little bit more on the court," she said.
The NYJTL provided ball runners on the show courts for Saturday and Sunday
Some of the veteran NYJTL children took to the courts, serving a pivotal role for the later rounds of play.
"The ITA asked for help getting ball runners," Chu said. "Some of our kids from our advanced team, who play a lot of tournaments, love to do this. Their next step will definitely be college tennis."
The NYJTL has reached many hearts and many homes, with a mission statement that reads as follows:
To develop the character of young people through tennis, emphasizing the ideals and life of Arthur Ashe in the following ways:
- Reaching out to young people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn and play tennis
- Instilling the values of humanitarianism, leadership and academic excellence
- Introducing the opportunity to fully develop their tennis skills and competitive potential for a lifetime of enjoyment
Having answered an ad in Tennis Week Magazine nearly 15 years ago to get a job with the organization, Chu knows what it means to change a young life.
"The most rewarding part has been getting kids into college, getting them scholarships, exposing them to the world outside of New York City," Chu said. "The 175 kids that came today; many of them have never left their community, let alone their borough. Seeing the best venue in New York City and seeing some of the best college players will hopefully inspire them to take tennis more seriously, look to the future and go to college."
Promoting the importance and value of every American child obtaining a college education is one of the key goals of the USTA. ITA Executive Director David Benjamin knows the importance of making sure kids get ushered in the right direction.
"Our hope is that seeing collegiate tennis will inspire the boys and girls of NYJTL to push toward college," Benjamin said. "Whether it's hard work in the classroom or on the court, now these kids have seen the benefits of working hard to attain a goal."
Chu said he has the 2014 date marked in his calendar already.
"There is no doubt we'll be back again," he said.