LOVE-15 SERVES UP A DIFFERENT OUTLOOK ON TENNIS TO CHILDREN IN THE CITY OF ROCHESTER
When Aliana Burgos was seven, the farthest thing from her mind was learning to play tennis.
“I used to think tennis was kind of lame,” she said laughing with tennis racquet in hand. “But I didn’t know what it was.”
She quickly learned about the game through the Maplewood Family YMCA’s Love-15 program. Love-15 teaches kids ages seven to 17 from the City of Rochester all about the game of tennis for free, thanks to generous supporters of the YMCA of Greater Rochester’s Annual Campaign. This is year 28 for the program. They see about 350 kids every summer at their three city locations: Edgerton Park, Genesee Valley Park and Cobbs Hill Park.
“Love-15 taught me what tennis was, what sports and teamwork were,” she said. “And then I fell in love with it.”
Burgos came back the following summer, which happens with about 80% of the first-time learners. She then became a coach, and even went on to play tennis, and win a championship with her team, at Nazareth College.
“I never had any paid lessons. All I had was Love-15, and it brought me this far,” she said. “It enriched my education. And to think I can do that with kids, that’s my favorite part.”
There are many barriers to playing tennis. The price being the biggest. Not only are the lesson free, but so are the tennis balls and racquets. Burgos says it gives city kids a chance to try something new in a free and open manner, and have it be fun.
“Love-15 teaches city kids they don’t have to listen to those barriers just because it’s expensive. If they want to play tennis they can.”
Burgos added that the skills players are learning on the court, transfer to other sports and aspects of their lives.
Chuck Hazlett, Sports, Teen and Family Staff Associate at Maplewood, sees the growth not only in the program from year-to-year, but in the players themselves. It’s not lost on him just how important it is to offer these free lessons in the city parks where kids live and play.
“When you look at the sport of tennis as a whole, who are the dominant forces right now? The Williams sisters, and they started in the same atmosphere as these guys,” he said. “Those two are such gems in tennis, imagine what gems we have hidden here.”