The New York area tennis community is one that is comprised of people from all walks of life … many of whom make paying it forward a point of emphasis. That is embodied in Michael Nortey, a High Performance Instructor at The Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning in the Bronx, N.Y.
“Growing up in Ghana as an athlete was not easy,” said Nortey. “Where I grew up is known as a sports community, because the National Sports Stadium is situated there. I grew up in a tennis family with my older brothers playing all the way up to the professional level. My childhood years were filled with sports. We had no community playground, so engaging in a sport was a way of life. I started playing at the age of 10 and took my tennis serious, although I was a great soccer player too. I constantly trained after school and on weekends with friends and sometimes with coaches.”
A two-sport athlete, Nortey eventually decided to turn his focus to tennis. His game quickly took off, and he was soon competing for Ghana’s national team at a number of different international tournaments, including the Davis Cup.
“I participated in the Davis Cup, all-African Games, African Juvenile Championships, ITF Futures and many others,” he said. “The Davis Cup was the tournament I loved most. It gave me an opportunity to display my talent and fight for my country at the pro level. I also earned ATP Rankings on the pro circuit.”
Nortey came to the United States in 2008 in the hopes of advancing his tennis career, working at a few different places before finding a home at Cary Leeds, where he currently works as a High Performance Coach who, as he says, “loves his job.” He works at developing the skills and techniques of high-performance Green Dot players, and he has an infectious passion for the game that is evident when watching him on-court with young players.
As he pursued a career in coaching here in New York, he always remained in contact with his family back home in Ghana, and wanted to help grow the game of tennis there.
“I constantly stayed in touch with family and friends back home, which helped me get to know the challenges that kids playing tennis face,” said Nortey. “Some of these challenges are a lack of equipment, lack of tournaments, financial struggles, motivation, talent development programs, as well as other social issues. My dream had always been to become a great tennis pro and help upcoming kids.”
And that is just what he began doing. For several years now, Nortey has gathered tennis equipment and sent it back to Ghana in the hopes of developing the game amongst kids there. With his help, some of the tennis players in Ghana have gone on to compete in the ITF/CAT African Juvenile Championships, ITF 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U tournaments, and some have even won various national junior tournaments.
“The Cary Leeds Center, Sydney Katz and the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program currently help with gathering and sending the equipment to Ghana,” said Nortey. “And we are always looking for other sources to help these talented, yet deprived kids.”
Nortey continues to use his platform and the resources he has to benefit the new generation of players and kids growing up in his native country. He knows first-hand just how important and influential the sport of tennis can be on young children, and how oftentimes it can be difficult for those who are underprivileged to play.
“Tennis is a very special sport, it’s one with elegance and fashion, and requires physical and mental abilities, and is referred to as the lifetime sport,” said Nortey. “Its benefits include good health, job creation, improvement of interpersonal skills, communication skills, sportsmanship, the opportunity to travel, national development and it can ward off deviant behaviors. Many countries around the world consider tennis to be a developmental tool in national building, and Ghana is no exception.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org