As has become a yearly tradition, the John McEnroe Tennis Academy (JMTA) hosted tryouts for both its Long Island and Randall’s Island facilities in late June, as tennis players from the ages of six through 16 headed to the courts in search of a scholarship into the JMTA.
Mr. McEnroe himself was present, alongside coaches, as they graded the skill sets of these young players.
“A really good work ethic and some talent that we think could have real potential down the line,” said JMTA and SPORTIME Randall’s Island Associate Director Perry Atchison. “Not necessarily a great player right now, but someone who shows potential in the future.”
During the tryouts at the Long Island annex at SPORTIME Syosset, the program’s director Mike Kossoff echoed that sentiment:
“I think we have the best program in the country and to be able to give back to people who financially are in need is important. Kids who have intrinsic motivation, if I am able to help them out and become a top player, it’s a win-win situation,” he said. “We’re not looking for the best or highest ranked player, or necessarily the kid with the best strokes, we’re looking for the kid who has the best attitude and who is willing to work the hardest.”
To earn this scholarship, the young players are not selected solely on their tennis ability, but on their fitness skills as well. The fitness aspect of the game was tested throughout the day, as players had to complete agility drills, such as sprinting, as well as balance, strength, and hand-eye coordination tests.
The players who earn a scholarship are invited to join the program and will have access to the full range of coaching and athletic training. The scholarships are funded through the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to change young lives by removing the economic and social barriers to success through tennis.
“Overall potential, athletic ability, character and desire to see how competitive the kids are and how hard they are willing to work. So we are really looking for the whole package,” said Lawrence Kleger, JMTA and SPORTIME Randall’s Island’s Co-Director of Tennis. “The criteria is pretty broad, but also the requirements are pretty steep. We are always looking for the next great champion.”
Allison Butler is an intern and contributing writer for New York Tennis Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.