City Parks Foundation helping to bring tennis to more NYC kids

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

With many New York City kids missing out on sports due to the high costs of equipment, lessons and leagues, the City Parks Foundation, in partnership with tennis legend Billie Jean King, is taking the financial burden out of the equation through its free tennis program.

The program has provided free tennis instructions to more than 3,000 kids between the ages of 6-16 this year.

According to data collected by Statista in 2019, the cost for New York City families to enroll one child into youth tennis is an average of $1,170 per year. While that was already difficult for many families to afford, the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation have only exacerbated the issue.

While the amount of kids in the free tennis program this year is lower than the number of over 5,000 participants before the pandemic in 2019, there has been steady  growth. After only having around 1,500 kids in the program in 2021, the 3,000 kids this year represents a sharp rebound. Additionally, the 32 different parks across the city that host this program are almost back to the pre-pandemic number of 38.

“This is one of the biggest programs we run,” said City Parks Foundation Director of Sports Mike Silverman. “This program is critical to the growth of the sport and parks are like the lifeblood to its growth. You just need a racquet, ball and someone else to play with. Tennis is a sport for life.”

According to Silverman, this program actually dates back to the 1970s, when it was started by the Parks Department. However, the Parks Department ended up cutting it in the 1990s. Fortunately, the City Parks Foundation swiftly picked it up and saved the program. Today, the nonprofit is privately funded, courtesy of local governments and sponsors.

In addition to teaching kids more about the game, this program also does a good job keeping them physically active. With all the equipment and a capable staff being provided for free, all they need to do to benefit from this is walk to the tennis courts at their participating parks.

Silverman noted that the program doesn’t currently run year-round because there aren’t yet any indoor facilities for the program to continue during the winter months. For many families, indoor facilities account for much of the cost of having kids learn and play the sport of tennis.

The nonprofit recently hosted its 24th Annual City Parks Tennis Benefit at the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Tuesday. King spoke about the importance of the program during the benefit. Additionally, the nonprofit recognized the behind-the-scenes work that helps to make this program possible and ensure it’s running well.