New York Camp Serves Up Life Lessons to New England Teens
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | August 6, 2018
ELIZAVILLE, NY- Tucked away in a quaint wooded area about an hour south of Albany, NY lies an unsuspecting hidden gem unlike any the tennis community has ever seen. It is a place of security, companionship and growth for nearly 60 teenage tennis players for two weeks in August.
It all started in 2015 when founder Adam Slone was looking to give back to young tennis players in a valuable and unique way. Born with a rare genetic disease that prevented him from playing contact sports as a kid, Slone fell in love with tennis at the age of 12. He went on to play in high school and even won a state championship.
After finding success in the business world, Slone started Life Serve Youth Foundation, a nonprofit based in New York City that offers an overnight tennis camp with exceptional training and personal development opportunities for youth with limited financial resources.
Shortly after, Life Serve partnered with Camp Eagle Hill in Elizaville, NY., and with the help of private financial backers and equipment grants from USTA, the Life Serve Tennis Camp was officially born.
“Our goal is to provide high-level tennis training with personal enrichment activities, respect for others and healthy eating. Ultimately we want to teach kids that through hard work, focus and passion, they can accomplish anything they want in this world and not to let anyone tell them they can’t,” Slone said.
Life Serve is free, although parents and campers are encouraged to raise a small amount beforehand if they can to cover some additional costs. The foundation recommends that players arrive to the camp empty handed and with empty pockets, as meals, tennis clothes, and all equipment are provided for the duration.
Life Serve collaborates with National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters throughout New England and New York to select players who they feel would greatly benefit from the experience both in tennis and everyday life. Three New England NJTLs, Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center, Tenacity and New HYTEs, all send kids to the camp on a yearly basis.
Slone, along with Executive Director Danny Leventhal and other Life Serve staff, create a two-week curriculum that features tennis first, and includes other electives such as rock climbing, boating, swimming, dancing and fan-favorite, go karting.
They hire a team of skilled tennis coaches who incorporate a blend of cardio and footwork drills with specific skill lessons, from kick serve, slicing and hitting with depth. These drills, along with others, are repeated throughout the two weeks to instill focus and hard work, and dedication.
“I will be attending again this summer, and I will be looking forward to the great structure, good learning environment, great conversation and also healthier food, which is very important for two weeks of intensive training,” said 14-year-old Brianna Rosa, who plays at Sportsmen’s in Dorchester, MA during the year. “The best thing about this camp experience that you can’t get anywhere else, is you get to ride go karts. This camp is so special in so many ways, and the good memories will last forever.”
Rosa, along with her twin sister Irinna and 90 percent of fellow campers, have returned for multiple years. One of the foundation’s missions is to track progress through and through and to ensure proper growth and development.
“These kids have the time of their lives and can’t wait to come back,” Slone said. “They are aware of our goals as an organization, and we talk to them candidly. We help them get tennis scholarships and prepare for college, but our goal is really to better them for the rest of their lives.”
“After camp, I notice my girls are much more confident and stronger in tennis,” said Brianna and Irinna’s mother, Isa. “It was hard to be away from my girls for two weeks, but I don’t regret it for so many reasons. They build real self-esteem, life skills, self-reliance and also pro-social behavior. They pick up great skills not only from their coaches but also from teammates.”
John Le and Robert Kubinec, both 14, play at Tenacity and will be attending Life Serve this summer for the second time.
“Life Serve helped me as a person because I have gotten better at talking to people my age and expressing my feelings,” Le said. “Before, I was shy and did not really like to talk to other people, and now I have gotten better at talking to people one on one or in a group. I was even able to share my opinion in one of the Tenacity class debates, which I never did before.”
“I will definitely be going back. I got better at tennis and it made me feel more confident in how I play,” Kubinec said. “Camp also changed my perspective on how I see people and I’m more comfortable around them now.”
Mike Dolph, Tennis Coordinator at Tenacity, has seen the enjoyment the boys have had following the two-week journey.
“Both John and Robert have grown a lot through Life Serve. I know they enjoy meeting new people from different places when going to the camp and value that experience,” Dolph said. “It is great that both get a tennis-based summer program every year, and I know these two take full advantage of the great opportunity in front of them.”
For the Life Serve staff, when camp is over, the work is just beginning. Slone and his team travel to NJTLs throughout the year to meet with players, parents and coaches to track progression. Hearing updates and observing player improvements first-hand are what truly make it all worthwhile for the team.
“It’s nothing less than life changing for anyone that’s involved with the organization,” Slone said. “To see these kids improve and how much they deserve this opportunity, is why we do what we do. We’ve had several people from different organizations talked to us completely choked up because they are so amazed and grateful for the experience. It’s amazing for this group of kids o f kids, who are all truly deserving and want to be the best they can be.”
This year’s camp will take place from August 13-25. To learn more about the Life Serve Youth Foundation or to donate, visit their website here.