"I am confident that if we work together at the grassroots level, we can positively affect the future of tennis in America."
Laura Kassirer is a former 5-time Wimbledon player, with wins over the great Mary Jo Fernandez and Manuela Maleeva. Laura was one of the top juniors in Florida, received a full scholarship to U of South Carolina, where she played #1 singles as a freshman and sophomore while leading her team to a #6 national ranking. Laura was All-American both years before turning pro after her sophomore year in 1983 where she held a ranking at around 150 in the world for 5 consecutive years.
Laura also runs KASSIRER SPORTS which provides after school tennis enrichment programs in over 100 elementary schools throughout California.
Laura runs YOUTH LEAGUE TENNIS, providing match play with modified serving rules all over California and Texas. YLT is open to kids ages 5-14 and the goal is to help them get ready to play High School tennis.
"Other enrichment programs come and go but Kassirer Sports has been around for over 22 years."
Laura wrote to us, "It amazes me that the tennis industry continues on its downturn and that the USTA, UPSTA, and PTR don’t all support my grassroots programs and encourage their pros to teach some of our classes. I keep hearing tennis is losing players all the time while my programs continue to grow. I have been successfully running grassroots programs now for over 22 years and have made over 150,000 new players.
The ex-director of NorCal USTA actually told me I was their competition. I think everyone is so worried about their own backyard that they don’t think about the sport as a whole as I am doing. And now one of my former players who got her start with Youth League Tennis when she was 7 and played 5 sessions with us is 15 years old and #1 in the nation.
I wish more pros would work with me who have clubs and kids to feed into. I opened up a new Youth League Tennis location in San Diego this winter and have 78 kids signed up with over 60 beginners and I couldn’t get local pros to want to do this program. I had to bring in my own coaches. They are more worried about giving up a private lesson than growing the game.
I could easily grow the game more if I had more good quality coaches. I only add classes when I have coaches wanting to work. Of course, I have worked with many academies and continue to do so, but it’s intermittent and I wish the tennis world would learn to value grassroots programs as a feeder into their program."
We found her statements so interesting, we wanted to learn more about Laura and her success.
THE STORY OF KASSIRER SPORTS
When her oldest daughter started Kindergarten, she called her former Wilson rep from when she played on the circuit and asked Wilson to donate 500 tennis balls and 50 rackets so she could teach tennis to kids at schools. Wilson readily agreed and in 1997, Laura began teaching tennis to kids on the playground. The tennis classes were a huge success and so Laura started hiring other skilled tennis coaches to teach at schools in their community. Laura looks to hire coaches who are great motivators and patients; who have the demeanor to keep a class engaged while teaching professional-quality fundamentals. Schools were so happy with Laura's classes that they asked her to provide other sports programs. Kassirer Sports currently provides tennis, soccer, basketball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee and game time classes at schools all over California. We are constantly hiring coaches and adding schools. But we only agree to run our program if we have a highly skilled coach available. This is how we maintain quality. Kassirer Sports also provides scholarships to disadvantaged kids and 50% discounts to school staff. Laura takes pride in only offering the highest quality sports classes and for giving kids the opportunity to find a sport they can play throughout their lifetime. Sports were such an important and rewarding part of Laura's life that she wants to pass on her knowledge and passion to as many youths as possible. Kids learn more than sports in our classes. They also learn valuable life lessons. Our coaches teach sportsmanship, communication, and working towards goals. Kids gain self-esteem through athletic success.
QUESTIONS FOR LAURA KASSIRER
TCB: Laura, what's your secret of growing your program for such a long time?
LK: Maybe it's because we are not competing with other enrichment programs. Our goal is simply to grow tennis.
TCB: How do you start after school programs in a certain area?
LK: I look for coaches first. Once I've found some, I'll start booking schools for them. We currently offer about 350 classes in all schools we have booked.
THE STORY OF YOUTH LEAGUE TENNIS
Youth League Tennis is a non-profit public benefit charitable 501 (c) 3 organization that was developed to provide kids ages 5-14 with local, quality, social youth tennis leagues. YLT provides the opportunity for all level players to compete with players of equal level in their own community. YLT is open to every child between the age of 5-14 and no child is turned away for lack of funds. Youth League Tennis runs 8-week tennis sessions in the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall throughout California and Texas!
Participants are encouraged to work towards playing High School tennis and are introduced to quality tennis programs and tennis professionals in their community. YLT emphasizes sportsmanship and building self-esteem in youth through athletic success. We believe in coaching in a positive manner and encouraging youth to feel proud when they do their best! YLT’s policy is that no child is turned away for lack of funds! Our goal is to make sure all kids have the opportunity to have fun learning a sport they can play for a lifetime and to teach them the values they learn through working towards goals, failing and trying again, succeeding and doing their best! If you look at a High School Varsity Tennis team near a YLT location, there is a strong likelihood that every member of the team played YLT when they were younger. We value High School tennis players as role models for our youth and offer them the opportunity to volunteer and earn community service hours for assisting our coaches during league play help younger players in their community develop their passion for tennis during YLT!
TCB: Laura, how many hours do you work every day? How do you do it?
LK: I work 15 hours, 7 days a week. How I do it? I guess I'm very organized. My main focus is all the administration, including billing.
TCB: Your husband is on the Board of YLT. Are your daughters involved, as well?
LK: My daughter Rachel will help me now full time. This will be great for us. I hope she will be able to take over eventually.
TCB: What are your biggest challenges right now?
LK: We don't have enough coaches. We have to regularly turn kids away because we can't find good coaches. If any of your readers are interested, please have them scroll down here to read how to contact me.
Laura Kassirer with husband, Allan, and daughters Rachel and Samantha.
TCB: What is a better area for you, Northern or Southern California?
LK: NorCal, for sure.
TCB: Are you planning to expand to states other than California and Texas?
LK: My daughter Rachel is exploring expanding to other states in the future.
TCB: What about pickleball? Any plans to incorporate this into your programs?
LK: We are already doing it. And we even have a paddle company sponsor us: Engage. I see pickleball as a great stepping stone toward playing tennis. We may be able to offer Youth League Pickleball in Florida soon.
TCB: How do people get in touch with you?
TCB: Thank you, Laura Kassirer.
Laura Kassirer's Youth League Tennis provides kids ages 5-14 in California and Texas with local, quality, social youth tennis leagues.