Beginning May 30, over 600 boys and girls from across New York City will compete in the nation’s largest scholastic tennis event: NYJTL’s 27th Annual Mayors Cup All-Scholastic Championship. Eight of those young players attend PS 100 in the Bronx, where they’ve learned the game under the tutelage of NYJTL Activity Specialist Jeff Lawrence.
A native of the Soundview section of the Bronx, Jeff began playing tennis at age 13, when he joined NYJTL’s community program at the Bronx International Youth Tennis Center.
“I liked tennis immediately,” he says. “My coaches showed me the ropes and they were really positive. Some of them are still at NYJTL today, which is cool.”
Jeff went on to play varsity tennis at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx, and attended Lehman College. But NYJTL was never far from his heart. He began working with kids in the summer program at Bronx International, and then became an assistant coach in the afterschool Aces Club program at PS 100.
Today, as an Activity Specialist, he teaches tennis, healthy living skills, science and literacy, and more to over 100 first-through-fifth-graders each year, including the 21 students who participate on the school’s tournament team. From that group, the top eight players will compete in this year’s Mayors Cup – and that means extra practice. To prepare for the tournament, Jeff has been taking the players to the spot where he first fell in love with tennis, Bronx International, for weekend practice sessions.
“At this point, we’re working on things like technique, positioning and strategy,” he says. “Our top three players want to win the Mayors Cup. For the others, the main goal is to get some good experience.”
While he enjoys coaching the tournament team, Jeff knows that tennis has an important role in the character development of all the kids he works with in the Aces Club.
“With TV and video games today, kids are used to instant gratification,” he says. “Learning how to play tennis is a process. We teach kids the importance of being patient, and not getting frustrated if they can’t do something right away.”
The Mayors Cup runs from May 30 to June 7, and will be held in two locations: the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows and at the new Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the Crotona Park in the South Bronx. For more information, click here.