BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Organizers of a Brooklyn youth tennis league are serving up life lessons off court with the expansion of a volunteer mentoring program.
The Kings County Tennis League, which provides lessons to children from Bed-Stuy’s public housing developments, launched a new initiative this year to “widen kids’ world view” through off-season field trips, according to founder Michael McCasland.
For the organization’s first outing in April, parents and volunteers will take students to New York’s Google headquarters.
“We teach tennis during the warmer months but during the winter and spring we want to keep in touch with the kids,” McCasland said.
“We always want to inspire them to try something new and have the confidence to be different. Going to Google as a youngster is an incredible opportunity to do that.”
The group formed a new parent committee to spearhead the effort. Members also hope to expose the young athletes to cultural events in the neighborhood such as performances at Bed-Stuy’s Billie Holiday Theatre.
Mentors are crucial in forming bonds with the kids and engaging with them on a personal level, McCasland added. The nonprofit league is currently seeking volunteers from a variety of different disciplines and backgrounds.
“We want volunteers to be committed to being role models,” he said. “Ideally they’ll be a constant presence in the kids’ lives during the season and through off-season events.”
Kings County Tennis League is also ramping up its mentor training through the addition of a new director of programming.
Meredith Brown, former site leader and a United States Professional Tennis Association certified coach, is creating a curriculum for volunteers to place greater emphasis on the educational and counseling aspects of each lesson.
“It is about tennis but we also want people who are willing to build relationships and talk to these kids about how we can help them and they can help themselves,” Brown said.
The league uses the sport as an opportunity to teach new vocabulary and geography facts to participants through games and drills, she added.
“Now we want to further expand the world these kids live in and have them meet different professionals from all over New York,” McCasland said. “Every year it just keeps getting better because of our love for the community.”
Individuals interested in volunteering can register online at the Kings County Tennis League website.