Each month, USTA Eastern selects one passionate advocate who has impacted lives through tennis on a local level. It all begins with a love of the game! These individuals have inspired us with their community tennis involvement.
Lawrence Kleger, of Jericho, N.Y., was chosen as USTA Eastern’s Tennis Organizer of the Month for April for his excellence as a high performance tennis coach. Kleger is currently the Tennis Director at Sportime’s John McEnroe Tennis Academy (JMTA), a role he has held for four years.
Through his position at JMTA, Kleger manages all programs, formulates curriculums, hires and trains more than 40 staff members and coaches high performance junior players. He also oversees JMTA at the Sportime Lake Island and Syosset locations to ensure continuity in the program.
Despite beginning his now almost 40-year coaching career with a command style approach that included negative reinforcement and constant feedback, Kleger’s current style is much the opposite, as he focuses on building students’ confidence through encouragement and positivity. Kleger provides more targeted feedback so that students go through their own learning process, and aren’t overwhelmed by too much information.
“As I’ve gotten more experience, I say far less to my students,” Kleger said. “I let them figure it out and, maybe, even struggle a little bit. That way, when I do say something, they think it is important and listen!”
Another key value Kleger believes is important is to incorporate sportsmanship. JMTA has a strict policy on behavior, as the organization doesn’t allow players to throw racquets, smash balls, bang curtains or treat others with disrespect.
“I’m proud to say that I’ve had probably 15-20 students who have received USTA Eastern’s annual sportsmanship awards,” Kleger said. “Sportsmanship is everything to me. It is a big part of the process of becoming the best player you can be.”
One of the most prominent players Kleger has coached is Long Island native Noah Rubin. Kleger started coaching Rubin when he was approximately seven years old. During his time coaching Rubin, Kleger valued the confidence Rubin carried, in combination with his consistent positive attitude and tireless work ethic. Although Kleger doesn’t coach Rubin on a day-to-day basis, he does see Rubin at JMTA when he is home in New York.
“I will always feel that I am a part of his tennis,” Kleger said. “He knows, no matter what, that I am in his corner. I will always have that bond with him.”
In addition to coaching, Kleger was a part of USTA Eastern’s Junior Competition Committee for more than 10 years, where he helped develop junior tennis. He also has been part of USTA Eastern’s Coaches Commission for three years.
Kleger’s love for tennis is evident. When he is not on-court teaching young players, he is out talking about tennis and watching his students play matches. He believes tennis provides children with the opportunity to learn the mental skills necessary to be successful in life, and considers the sport to mirror life better than any other.