Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins shows his “Game. Set. Life.” spirit at the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Fundraiser.

Justin Gimelstob and James Blake

Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player

Junior Clinic

The Juniors and Celebrities

The Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program ( started back in 1972 and their motto is, “Not just a program – a way of life.”
Yesterday, I stopped by their annual fundraiser to donate a copy of my book to the program and to take some photos and interview some people for my blog.

Katrina Adams is the executive director, and she says, “We use tennis as a vehicle to get kids to go to college.”

The fundraiser included a one-hour junior clinic, a cocktail reception, with silent and live auction and a celebrity exhibition.
James Blake was there. Justin Gimelstob was there. Bob Ryland, the first black professional tennis player was there. Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins was there.
I spent some time with each of these great individuals.
I asked James Blake how he felt about the event and program.
“I love it. It’s where I used to play and the volunteers truly make it special. I’ve been coming back for seven or eight years now. I see some familiar faces and some new faces. This program is really about life. You learn to compete, improve, set goals, and work hard.”
Justin Gimelstob added, “This is my first year and the Blake brothers are really doing a great thing here. They’re really giving back. The student athletes in this program are learning about success and failure, how to overcome adversity, and it’s quite an opportunity.”
*Note: James and Thomas Blake both went through this program and went on to Harvard.
Bob Ryland, now 88, was the first black professional tennis player. Prior to turning pro at age 35, he was the #1 ranked player in the
ATA (American Tennis Association), which was for black tennis players. At age 14, the great Arthur Ashe said, “I just want to be as good as Bob Ryland.” Ryland has coached the Williams sisters, Bill Cosby, Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand, and Dustin Hoffman, among others. I asked him if he thought the Williams sisters were more talented than everyone else and Ryland responded, in his soft voice, “I don’t think they were more talented than everyone else, they just worked harder.” Ryland feels that the Harlem Tennis and Education Program is a great opportunity for the kids and it gives them options that he never had growing up.
I also had a great conversation with former NYC Mayor, David Dinkins. “I am very enthused about this event. They are doing very important work here. Some of these children could grow up and become the next James Blake, or get a scholarship for college. But the main benefit of this program is to make all of them better people; it’s about life lessons.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Also participating, were Thomas Blake, Kristie Ahn, Gail Brodsky, Gail Marquis, of the silver medal 1976 US Basketball team, and David Graham.
I left the event inspired, motivated, and in awe because I gave James Blake, Justin Gimelstob, Katrina Adams, Bob Ryland and Mayor Dinkins my autograph (inside “Game. Set. Life.”).
Thanks for reading.