NY Aces president and executive director Jonathan Raude grew up in Rego Park. It was his vision to provide children in the area with a similar opportunity that he had as a child.
“My dad had a racquet laying around the apartment, and I just started hitting balls against the wall and got interested in the sport that way,” he said. “I grew up near the West Side Tennis Club, so I would balance playing between there and Flushing Meadows Corona Park.”
Raude went on to play tennis for Cardozo High School in Bayside, where he won the city singles and team titles, along with being awarded the PSAL Heisman Wingate Award in his senior year.
After high school, he became a four-year starter and captain of the Boston College men's tennis team.
Raude and his staff, including director of Player Development Gus Alcayaga, believe that through tennis, kids can start developing a strong work ethic, discipline, physical health, and mental skills at a young age.
Alcayaga was a former Argentinian world-ranked ATP Tour player, and has coached many of the region's top junior players over the last 25 years. He’s certified by the USPTA, USRSA and works with the USTA High Performance Coaching Program.
Many kids are unable to access tennis instruction simply because of the significant financial costs associated with learning the sport. But the organization hopes to reverse that trend by providing free and low-cost training at the West Side Tennis Club through its scholarship program.
Particularly aimed at kids in central Queens, including Forest Hills, Rego Park and Elmhurst, Raude found that the West Side Tennis Club would be the right fit given its proximity to all of the neighborhoods.
They’ve also collaborated with Ridgewood Savings Bank, Madison House Presents and USTA Eastern to provide the program.
While NYC Aces is starting in central Queens, there is the potential for the program to expand into other neighborhoods in the future.
"The West Side Tennis Club and their CEO Mario DiPreta have really been instrumental in making all this possible,” he said. “When when we came up with the idea of having this program and presented it to them, they opened their doors and have been true partners in putting this together for the underserved kids from our community.”
NYC Aces is holding tryouts for the program on Sunday, March 18, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the West Side Tennis Club. Tryouts are open to pre-K through second-grade students. Registration is required at nycacestennis.com.
“Personally, I grew up in the area and I played tennis, but not many kids did or do today, so for me it’s important to give back to the kids,” Raude said. “Really giving the opportunity to those who don’t have it.”