NJTL 50 for 50:
Erin Maher | April 4, 2019
As the USTA Foundation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis & Learning network, USTA.com is looking at 50 NJTL leaders and alumni who have helped shape this incredible community that is dedicated to helping youth strive for academic and athletic excellence on the tennis court, in the classroom and in life. In the latest installment, we catch up with Charlie Pasarell, who along with Arthur Ashe and Sheridan Snyder, co-founded NJTL in 1969.
Pasarell, who hails from San Juan, P.R., had an impressive junior career and then went on to play college tennis at UCLA. It was there, while playing for the Bruins, that Pasarell met and befriended Arthur Ashe. The two went on to play on the professional tour, where they met former University of Virginia star and businessman Sheridan Snyder. ADVERTISEMENT All three men came together to found NJTL in 1969. While Pasarell and Ashe were on tour, they served as the voices of NJTL, bringing attention to the growing program. To this day, Pasarell is still heavily involved with the Indian Wells NJTL in the Coachella Valley, near his home.
The Charlie Pasarell File
Name: Charlie Pasarell
NJTL Chapter: NJTL National, Indian Wells NJTL
Role with NJTL: Co-founded the program with Arthur Ashe and Sheridan Snyder
Year became active in NJTL: 1969
How did you end up becoming one of the co-founders of NJTL?
Charlie Pasarell: Exactly what happened was as follows. Sheridan Snyder was in charge of, it was then the USLDA, and he was in charge of the junior development program. If you know Sherry, I mean, he's not a guy that wants to wait for things to happen.
So he came to Arthur and I. We were the No. 1-, No. 2-ranked recreational players in the United States at the time. He says, "I need some help. I want to start this program and basically a program to take tennis out of the private clubs and country clubs and put it into the public parks." So Arthur and I went to meet with him at his house in Connecticut, and we sat there. I remember very well. We sat there, and I had a yellow pad. I was putting down all those notes. He had, for one, what he wanted to do. So between the three of us, we were coming up with all kinds of ideas—that we should do this, do that—and basically just mapped out an ad-hoc sort of plan of action.
Sherry immediately arranged to meet with the mayor of New York at the time. He arranged a meeting so that he would provide us with the access to the public courts in the five boroughs, whatever courts or areas there were in the five boroughs of New York. We also went to Richmond [Virginia, where Ashe was born]. He went to Richmond and got that done so that we could start a program in Richmond, and one in Connecticut. Anyway, that's where Sherry lived. We took off from there with him.
Arthur and I were being represented by, then, ProServ's Donald Dell, and Frank Craig Hill and that company. So we recruited them to raise some sponsorships, and they did. We started this program, a plan that we mapped out, started growing and growing and growing, and it grew like wildfire. So that's basically it. We got to put tennis outside of the country clubs and private clubs.
Sheridan was the administrative force behind the inception of NJTL, while you and Arthur were on tour, promoting the fledgling program. Can you speak on that experience?
Charlie Pasarell: Oh, yeah. Oh, sure. We [Pasarell and Ashe] would make appearances at all the sites and see what was going on. Then, yes, absolutely, we were talking up the National Junior Tennis League at the time. Now it's Learning, which is the right change. We spent a lot of time with a lot of people that were doing these programs and visiting their sites.
So what has your favorite part been about being a part of NJTL and helping found it?
Charlie Pasarell: Well, I will tell you this. I think of whatever things I might've accomplished in the sport of tennis, the thing that I'm most proud of is the fact that I was one of the founding members of National Junior Tennis and Learning. I mean, that, to me, was the highest thing, the best thing I ever did in the sport.
Pictured above (l to r): Charlie Pasarell, Mia Oliver and Mayor David Dinkins during the USTA Foundation Arthur Ashe Awards Luncheon at the Yale Club during the 2015 US Open. Photo credit: USTA/Steven Freeman