May. 9, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
The City Parks Foundation (CPF) held free tryouts for the Lacoste Tennis Program for more than 180 kids between the ages of 8 and 17 last weekend at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. The tryouts — held on May 6 and May 7 — were aimed toward continuing CPF’s mission of offering free and low-cost sports programming for youths across New York City.
These tryouts serve as a great opportunity for the participating kids to show off their skills in the sport, with some hoping to get a scholarship for their tennis skills. Additionally, it acts as a great introduction to the sport for kids trying tennis for the first time.
According to a Centers for Disease Control study, there is a large gap in sports participation among kids based on a family’s income level. Approximately 70% of the kids who played sports in 2020 came from families with an annual income of at least $100,000, four times more income than the poverty line. Conversely, the percentage drops to 51% for middle-income families and 31% for those at or below the poverty line. By offering free and low-cost sports programming to kids in the city, CPF hopes to decrease these discrepancies.
According to CPF Director of Sports Mike Silverman, New York City has more public tennis courts than any other city in the United States. This is one of the main reasons as to why tennis is the biggest sports program that CPF operates.
“Our job is to keep those courts active,” Silverman said. “Tennis is such a great sport for a lot of reasons. You can play it your entire life. It requires just one other person to play with. It’s aerobic and it teaches strategic thinking. It’s just a terrific sport for kids to learn.”
Silverman said CPF expects to reach as many as 4,000 kids across the city when it comes to providing free tennis instructions for kids of all ability levels. In addition to the lessons and recently held tryouts, CPF also holds tennis tournaments. He noted the tryouts presented great opportunities for kids looking to join their high school tennis team or interested in receiving a college scholarship.
“Over the years, it’s been very rewarding for me to see the kids start learning the game in our beginner program and come through our entire program,” Silverman said. “Some have even gotten a college scholarship or even teach tennis. Our program’s director of tennis started in our academy and now that’s his profession. He’s been teaching tennis now for 30 years.”
Another part of the program that Silverman highlighted was the fact that the kids get to socialize with each other, whether it’s during the lessons or even tryouts like the one that occurred over the weekend. In addition to bonding with each other, the kids can improve their own skills in the sport by practicing and playing with each other.
In addition to operating the tennis program, CPF also offers free lessons in other sports, like soccer, track and field and golf. The track lessons are provided at parks across Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, while the golf lessons are provided at the CityParks Junior Golf Center in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Parents interested in registering their kids for any of CPF’s sports programs can do so by visiting Cityparksfoundation.org. Registration for the summer programs is currently open to the public.