WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Tennis may be one of the most expensive sports to play, but Jon Gerardi won't turn anyone away from his program if they can't pay the asking price.
The Yonkers resident runs Westchester Youth Organization, a not-for-profit tennis organization which provides lessons for adults and children.
The group leases the courts from the county, and welcomes all players from Westchester and surrounding areas.
Gerardi launched the program in 2003. Prior to that, he coached Division I tennis and played college tennis himself.
He founded the organization because he did not see a feeder program for tennis.
"There's a real gap for tennis," he said. "You don't see a feeder grassroots program that's dominant across the country. Entrance into the sport is intimidating for parents who don't come from the country club scene. My mission is to bridge that gap."
Gerardi funnels his time and energy into providing as close to year-round training for students as possible, hosting two sessions of lessons in the summer, and tournament training in the colder months.
He began offering scholarships to students in order to breach the income struggles many of their families were facing.
"I have people who pay me 10 bucks a week," he said. "We don't shoo a kid away if he can't pay."
Gerardi, who considers himself to be middle class, remembers being quoted $8,000 for lessons for his daughter.
"The real problem with tennis is the price point, and we're not producing quality tennis players because of it," he said.
Gerardi said that playing a sport like tennis is important for children, specifically those who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
"It creates an opportunity for kids to go participate in something," he said. "If you go to Trevor Park on the west side of Yonkers, kids are running around without parents. They're getting into other things, because their parents don't have the money for them to do anything else."
He hopes to eventually raise enough money to redo the tennis courts at Tibbets Brook Park and grow the organization to include other sports and provide educational assistance.
WYO offers summer lessons in two sessions. The next session starts in July and goes into mid-september.
For more information, visit their website here.
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