In the heart of the Bronx, N.Y. sits one of sport’s most revered cathedrals in Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees. But just minutes down the road, by foot, lies another facility that is at the heart of sports in New York City, Stadium Tennis Center.
For years, Gotham Tennis Academy at Stadium Tennis Center has been one of the staples that held together tennis here in New York, cultivating a program that combines passion and commitment with dedication and skill. And at the heart of that program is its Director of Tennis, Eric Faro.
A Bronx native himself, Faro, like many kids growing up in New York City, grew up playing tennis amongst other sports. He got his start in tennis by playing with his father, who would take him to local parks and he picked the sport up very quickly.
“I enjoyed playing everything, but at around 12-years-old, I realized I was excelling at tennis, so I gave up the other sports and focused strictly on tennis,” said Faro. “I have a lot of parents who have six- to eight-year-old kids who just want the kids to play tennis, and I discourage that. Team sports are good, and can provide skills they may need later in life. Playing only tennis can cause burnout and injuries.”
Faro would go on to have an excellent junior career and played first singles at Horace Mann High School for all four years. Following that, he headed to Columbus, Ohio and played his collegiate tennis for the Ohio State Buckeyes. After college, Faro created a tennis company called Metro Tennis with a friend, before pursuing career opportunities outside of tennis.
“But I missed it every day,” Faro recalls. “I missed the competition … I missed being out there and running around on the court. Sitting behind a desk selling mortgages was not what I wanted to do with my life.”
So Faro returned to the tennis court and to Stadium Tennis Center, where he heads up the facility’s programming, and has overseen the company’s growth over the last decade.
“We’ve expanded a great deal. It was a brand new facility when I joined these guys and I’ve seen it grow,” said Faro. “We have a good name and reputation in the City because we are doing the right thing here. We have aggressive plans and goals for every kid. I meet with and talk to parents whenever they have questions; everyone here has my cellphone number and e-mail address. I think that’s what separates us … the parents really trust us for that reason and know that we are doing the right thing.”
A key component of that growth has been the addition of a program out in Montauk during the summer.
“Our Montauk program has really taken off. We are excited about the future, and especially about the addition of our club in Montauk which is very important,” said Faro. “We run weekend camps all summer long for the kids out there. What’s great is we have the hard courts in the City, and the clay courts out East, so it creates a well-rounded training experience. It’s good for both the business and the development of our players. As the kids start growing, it’s important that they learn to play on clay. You learn how to create points and be more consistent, and the different ways to play the game. The atmosphere of being out there is amazing in comparison to the City. Once you are at the club, it’s like paradise. Last year was our first year and it went well, as everyone seemed to enjoy it. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”
With Gotham Tennis Academy’s presence ranging from up in the Bronx to all the way out East in Montauk, a typical day for Faro—well, doesn’t exist.
“There is so much action here and things going on that I don’t really have a typical day,” Faro said. “We have about 450 kids in the program, so we have a full-time staff. I put together the kids’ schedules with our pros, and make sure that everything is running smoothly each day. We also have adult programming, so whether it is adults or the kids on the court, they need our full attention. I wake up every day with a plan and make sure we deliver what we promise to the people. I tell the kids every day that they need to learn one thing every time they go out on-court, and if you can do that, then it has been a good session.”
As we approach another summer here in New York, the folks at Gotham Tennis Academy and the Stadium Tennis Center are looking forward to another exciting tennis season at its home location in the Bronx, while continuing to grow its camp and programming out on the East End of Long Island.
For Faro, he remains thrilled with his decision to come back to the industry, and the tennis home he has built for not only himself, but everyone involved with the program.
“I am really invested in this, and am so glad I got back into the business because I missed working with the juniors and kids, at all levels,” Faro said. “Some other directors or coaches may only want to work with top talent, but I enjoy both the advanced and novice players. I want to see a smile on their faces when they come off the bus into camp, and want them to feel like this is a second home for them. We really care and want to see them succeed. I can honestly say that I really do enjoy getting up every morning and coming to work.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org