Building the Next (Tennis) Generation

Usually when a chaperone is pondering whether the idea of taking a group of fifteen, fourteen to seventeen year olds out to dinner, is a good idea, many might think twice. For Simon, Mark and Claudio, it was not only a good idea, but it was also their own.

The evening was a celebratory event that served as a thank you to all of the Coach in Training (CIT) juniors that volunteered their time throughout the summer. The CIT program was created in 2010 to align with New York State Learning standards for service and leadership and was designed to help provide young adults with an opportunity to develop leadership skills and to gain hands on experience in a professional working environment. From it’s inception, the CIT program has grown from a few junior players to now having 25 throughout the year.

After the fun dining show that Hibachi typically provides it’s diners, Claudio addressed the group. He thanked the group for their hard work and dedication to the summer camp program. Claudio then asked each CIT to say a few words about their experience. Not unlike many groups of millenials, cell phones were in constant use and speaking to a group was something that could quickly be read on their faces that they were not expecting to have to do, but then something surprising and powerful happened.

Each CIT spoke about what the CIT program, tennis, and being a player at YTC has meant to them. For many educators and coaches, the level at which you effect a young person’s life is something that is hoped for, but is not always known. For Simon, Mark, and Claudio, many of these juniors had started at the club when they were as young as five or six. For the three coaches to hear from their students their thoughts and feelings about their experience is a moment that many people that work with young people wish to be a part of.

Words and phrases such as “YTC is my second home, this place is a like a family to and “I’ve matured a lot as a person,” were amazing to hear in several of the CIT speeches. For one of the CIT’s, who was off to his freshman year of college, the growth of confidence was a major part of his address. For him, the CIT program helped him find his voice, as he said in his own words that he was a “quiet and shy kid,” and how being a part of the CIT program helped him come out of his shell.

A big smile and sigh graced all of the CIT’s faces when they in unison agreed that they now have a better appreciation for teachers, coaches, and even their parents, as they’ve all had to handle their own group of rambunctious six to twelve year olds throughout a day session of camp. Each in their own way, noted how they didn’t realize that they were looked at as role models to the younger generations that they served, and how they could achieve their own intrinsic rewards by seeing a junior player accomplish a goal that they had been struggling with.

Sports have long been used as a vehicle for learning about life’s lessons. Tennis is no different in that regard as many of those lessons can be learned on and off the court. Just like the NCAA commercial states, over 90% of the junior players that pass through our program won’t become professional tennis players, but the goal of the CIT program is to help 100% of them become better people when they come through our doors.