New England

NYGEAR UP Students Play Tennis in Boston

Alex Wesley, Director of Marketing  |  February 27, 2018

DORCHESTER, MA – Sometimes, tennis can bring people together in the most unlikely of circumstances. For those who love the sport, they’ve likely heard many stories from people who happened upon the game in one interesting way or another. Now, a large group of high school students from Western New York each have their own unique tennis story to tell.


Thirty-seven students and their adult chaperones boarded a bus in Buffalo, NY to embark on an educational journey through Massachusetts from February 20-22. Traveling with their Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (NYGEAR UP), the students toured four colleges and universities on a quest to prepare for the transition to college. Thanks to USTA New England and Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center, playing tennis together was also part of their experience.



“This is the first time we’ve tried tennis with a group of students and I would have never thought it would turn out so well,” said Theresa Bonito, Director of NYGEAR UP.


The group came from seven different high schools in Buffalo – many meeting for the first time on the trip.


“The trip has really been incredible. In my opinion, coming out of their comfort zones is the biggest thing. To travel with students from other schools and experience new activities like tennis is beneficial to them. This is what college is. You have to step outside your comfort zone, be respectful, kind and share physical space,” said Bonito.


After a long day of visiting Northeastern and Boston College, along with touring the New England Aquarium and iconic Quincy Market, the students arrived at Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center in Dorchester for a night session of tennis on February 21. 


Four coaches from Sportsmen’s divided the students onto three courts. Upon learning most of the students had never played tennis before, they taught them the basics before moving into full-court games.

“It was really fun. The coaches taught us different ways to hold the racquet and play,” said Nia Pilgrim, a sophomore at East Community High School in Buffalo.


After tennis, USTA New England sponsored a pizza party. 

“At Sportsmen’s, we love facilitating positive experiences revolving around tennis. The NYGEAR UP program was just that. The kids were using the sport that we all love to play and interact with each other in a new environment. Hopefully we can do it again,” exclaimed Daniel King, a coach at Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center.


For Chelsie Hinckley, a project coordinator for NYGEAR UP, tennis seemed like the perfect fit for this group. “We are always looking for ways to incorporate sports into our trips. Many of our students are athletes and will wake up before our day officially starts to get a workout in. We wanted to give them the opportunity to try a sport they hadn’t tried yet,” she said.


Not only did many students play for the first time, but they had the honor of playing at a place with a special background. “Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center is the oldest African American owned tennis club in the country,” said Chantal Roche, Diversity and Inclusion Manager for USTA New England. She told the students, “There is a lot of history here and we are happy you can be a part of that.”


Many of the students took to tennis right away and are looking to continue the sport in Buffalo.


“We were thrilled to have these students take an interest in our great sport. I’ve already been in contact with my colleagues in Buffalo who are excited to share playing opportunities with this group,’ said Roche.


Cadaybiondre Thomas, a sophomore at East Community High School, wanted to thank the coaches at Sportsmen’s for such a great experience. “Keep mentoring and keep helping players like you did with us. You never know who the next top tennis player could be,” he said.  Thomas plans to continue playing when he returns home.


“We are so grateful to USTA New England and Sportsmen’s for this great experience. Everyone was so gracious and hopefully we can play tennis again on a trip,” said Bonito.


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