Nearly a decade ago, the United States Tennis Association granted $500 to Ossining Community Tennis for senior round robin tennis matches. Since then, the not-for-profit organization has received well over $30,000 in grants to help tennis players—beginners to pros—learn and play tennis in public parks and at the community center.
“The mission of the organization is to provide programs to community residents to learn and play tennis at a reasonable cost,” said Shannon Ross, president of OCT. “There are fees, but we keep them very low.”
At most, those fees are under $100 for playing on a team or receiving lessons.
Ross started playing tennis in her twenties and made the sport part of her career, having worked at sports management firms and at the USTA. Since moving to Ossining in the early 80s, she always wanted to start a local program promoting tennis.
“At that time, there were 13 tennis courts. The most popular were the ones at Nelson Park,” she said. “Tennis was at its height of popularity. A lot has changed.”
Now, in conjunction with Ossining Parks and Recreation, the 300 members of Ossining Community Tennis have access to the courts at Nelson and Ryder parks from April thru October. Occasionally, the organization partners with private clubs locally. The group includes teams and tournaments for junior and adults, and offers private lessons and clinics for players looking to learn more.
Quickstart Tennis, for example, is an indoor program through the USTA at the community center offered during the winter to young children. It’s free and OCT provides the equipment. And for the past two or three years, OCT has brought in professionals to assist Ossining High School’s varsity tennis coaches.
“A lot of times, they don’t know a lot of the strategies and drills that can be helpful,” Ross said. “We’ve funded some really good pros to come in and work with the coaches.”
OCT’s instructors are the only people getting paid. The rest of its participants are volunteers, and without them, Ross said they couldn’t have achieved a major initiative.
“Because it has grown so much, I don’t have enough court time for all of the activities that people want to do. We realized if we could get lights at Nelson Park, we could expand our court time into the evening,” she said.
For three years, local players helped fundraise $11,000, but in order to light even a single court, they needed double that amount. OCT lucked out though and received highly expensive lights for free. The National Tennis Center at the Meadowlands gave some of its $30,000-plus lights away under the circumstance that OCT pays for their removal and shipping costs.
“It’s been a victory for us to have acquired that without spending so far, public dollars,” Ross said. “It also shows the commitment of the local players here.”
Ross hopes the lights that are now in storage are installed prior to next season.
Meanwhile, she has plans for OCT’s further expansion including a beginner’s and returning player’s clinic for men.
“We do a lot of stuff for the gals but I’d really like to do more for male players whether they’re new to the game or returning.”
If you're interested in joining Ossining Community Tennis, you can contact Shannon Ross by calling her cell at 914-420-0639 or by e-mailing her at email@example.com.