Kings County Tennis League trains kids in public housing

NEW YORK — At Marcy playground in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, tennis balls fly across the court, and excited kids as young as 5 swing their rackets as they learn to play.

“My number one goal is to play professional tennis,” says 16-year-old Jonathan Delrosario, who grew up in the neighborhood. He, along with the other young people playing on the courts, is part of the Kings County Tennis League.

He was at a typical lesson hosted by the nonprofit, formed 12 years ago as a way to bring the sport to kids living in and around public housing.

“The simple fact of them coming the first time and being a little intrigued. They begin to learn and they feel like they are developing this pride in their community as the tennis club of the public house,” says Mohammad El-Haj Ahmad, executive director.

The lessons take place year-round, serving six NYCHA developments in Brooklyn. The tennis club at Marcy playground just launched its fall after-school season.

Program leaders believe the lessons that can be taught on the court will be helpful to these young people later in life.

“Tennis teaches you responsibility, character, discipline,” said program manager Rob Gerstman. “In order to become good at a sport like tennis, you have to dedicate your time.”

This season, they’ve also started expanding their team by hiring teens who came directly from the league. Delrosario is one of those recent hires.

“It has really helped me a lot when it comes to my mentality. It has made me more open. Before, I was a shy kid,” he told CBS 2’s Hannah Kliger.

Lessons and equipment are free to the league’s families, thanks to funding provided by groups like Brooklyn Communities Collaborative.

“Being able to improve their health and well-being and essentially their wealth as well by providing them with additional opportunities is something that we really believed in,” says Emmanuella Chevalier, BCC community engagement coordinator.

Moms like Andrea Donadelle, whose three daughters attend the classes, says this gives them the opportunity to play the sport they love.

“If not, my girls would be playing video games. So now they’re outside, they’re excited, they’re running around, they’re getting fit, they’re staying active and social so that’s exactly what we want.

For some, like Delrosario, it might even open the door to a career opportunity, because now, the ball is in his court.

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