When the latest New Yorker of the Week moved to Brooklyn years ago, he realized not all our city's children get the same opportunity to learn tennis, the sport that played a huge role for him growing up, so he's trying to make it something any student can enjoy. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
Tennis isn't something you usually see at the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn. Michael McCasland wants to change that.
"For a lot of the kids in the neighborhood, they've never played tennis before, they've never been taught tennis, even though there's a tennis court right in their backyard," McCasland says. "So this is a great opportunity for the kids to learn a new sport, meet new people. The goal is that they be inspired to try new things in life."
"Basketball's really popular, football's really popular, but tennis is just kind of one those things that fall through the cracks, especially in the city, because ut's kind of hard and it's unaccessible," says volunteer Krystal Atwater. "The equipment is expensive. Learning how to play is expensive."
McCasland saw an opportunity in a dusty tennis court. He created the Kings County Tennis League five years ago. Every Saturday, volunteers provide free lessons to dozens of kids living at four public housing developments in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
"When I first came to tennis, I was like, 'I don't really want to play this sport. It looks kind of boring.' But then, when I started playing it, I was like, 'Well, it's interesting and I'm getting better at it,'" says Noelani Dorsey, a 10-year-old participant.
"It's lots of fun, and I get to do lots of exercise," says another participant.
"I love tennis," says a third participant.
Learning the game isn't the only thing that happens on the court. Michael is a forensic scientist. He recruits other professionals to be coaches, and more importantly, mentors.
"It's also something for them to aspire to," says volunteer Jonathan Williams. "It exposes them to things that they didn't know that they could actually do, let alone know someone who actually did it."
"The best part about it is that the kids start to change in their behavior," McCasland says. "The kids start to listen. The kids start asking about our careers and about college. What we have to make the kids inspired, the tennis program is the best thing tha's ever happened to me."
So, for teaching the game of life through the sport of tennis, Michael McCasland is our New Yorker of the Week.
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