November 2011 – Kenny’s Serve
How do we know when our programs are successful? This time of year, we typically host many scholastic Philadelphia Public, Catholic, District 12, District I singles and doubles girl’s high school tournaments. These “hosting” events provide us with the unique opportunity to see several of the girls, who we have helped develop as players and people, represent their respective high school teams and compete in interscholastic play. In many ways, they also are representing Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, an organization which has equal or greater influence on their athletic development as compared to their high school. These young people spend many hours with us over many months, and years with our coaches and other young players
On Friday, October 21st, we witnessed an epic match between George Washington’s Selena Ocasio and Central High’s Alexandra LaWall to determine the winner of the Philadelphia Public League Girls Singles. While Selena won this hard-fought match in a third set 11-9 tie breaker, the reason for our enormous pride was that both of these young women conducted themselves as true champions and competitors.
Throughout this back and forth match, every point was played with determination, skill, and sportsmanship. The young women never questioned a single line call. They routinely applauded each other for a particularly good shot at the end of the point. They stood together after the match to embrace and pose for the trophy ceremony and pictures with their high school coaches. Selena and Alex clearly demonstrate accomplishment of our mission to prepare young people for success as student athletes and active, responsible citizens.
Selena has participated in our programming since she was 7 years old and has been a junior instructor at Jardel Recreation Center as part of our NJTL program since she was 14 years old. She is the younger sister of Kiara, an AAYTE alum who is a student-athlete at Hobart and William Smith College, teaches in our program, and was co-winner of our Growing Taller Award. Alex has participated in our Junior Competitive through Junior Advanced clinics programming for many years.
On October 26, two other young women won 1st and 3rd in District I tournaments, qualifying to represent their region of the Philadelphia suburbs in the PIAA State Tournament in Hershey, PA. Both Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Cristina Kaiser and Wissahickon’s Maureen Devlin have long standing involvement with our organization and we believe that we had a positive influence in their growth as athletes and human beings. Cristina has participated in our programming as a player since she was 8 years old, is now in our Maximum Performance program and participates as a Goodstein Junior Leader. She went on to win the District I Girls Singles title. Maureen has participated in our Maximum Performance program for the last year.
Winning tournaments and championships is not in and unto itself a reason for celebration. What is applause-worthy is the way in which these young women carry themselves on and off of the court. All four of these young women are strong, self-confident, respectful, caring, and humble. They are fierce competitors who have control of their emotions, having a healthy perspective about the importance of winning, and winning the right way. Knowing that our coaches and staff have played a role in their development as exceptional young women inspires my colleagues and me to go about our work with commitment, determination, and dignity, as demonstrated by our young people every day.