Children: Shayna, 21; Donovan (DJ), 14
What does tennis mean to you?
Tennis has been a blessing to my entire family. I have played since the age of five. My parents were avid players, who taught my two siblings and me to play and enjoy the game. We traveled together as a family, practicing and competing around the country. Because of tennis, all three of us received full tennis scholarships to Division I universities.
After a short stint working for the NYC Department of Education as a speech therapist, I discovered I’d rather teach tennis full-time than be in a classroom setting because it gave me the schedule flexibility to care for my infant daughter. Plus, being on the court was more fun and less stressful. I taught for many years with the NYJTL, and
Tennis has opened many doors of opportunity for my family and me. It has provided a way for us to spend time together and bond, receive higher education and a fulfilling career. I have met hundreds of people from all walks of life, locations
How long have your children been playing tennis?
My children began playing when they were able to walk. My son DJ and I still joke that his playing was inevitable since I taught tennis while I was pregnant him – he must have been drawn to the familiar sounds of the court. My children would come with me to work and play with the other children. I wanted them to develop their own love for the game without being forced, so I always encouraged them to participate in other activities besides tennis while I was working. And they did, but for some reason by the end of the day, they would wind up on the tennis court. Eventually, they let me know when they wanted to be on
Why do you think it is important for your children to play tennis?
Tennis is a wonderful lifetime sport. I want my children to have access to a healthy activity they can participate in forever. It can also be a pathway to higher education. Tennis also promotes a sense of independence and critical thinking since tennis players need to problem solve while playing.
Through my work at Harlem Junior Tennis and Learning, I coach many Junior Team Tennis (JTT) teams, and this was how both my children grew acclimated to tennis as a competitive sport. What I love about JTT is that it is a fun way to learn the techniques and strategy of the sport without too much at stake in terms of competition. With the JTT format, competition becomes a seamless extension of their practice. Not all kids are on the tournament track. In fact, most of the kids in my program play tennis for the fun of it. They also get to experience the team comradery that is not often associated with tennis. I see these young teammates start to help each other out during team practice and matches. This is a start of good behaviors that they can take with them to other parts of their lives.
What is your most memorable tennis moment for you and your family?
Every day is a memorable tennis moment! But the most memorable moment was being selected as USTA Eastern’s Tennis Family of the Year in 2012. My entire family plays, including my parents, siblings, brother-in-law and all the children.