| By Brian Coleman

At this year’s annual USTA Long Island Region Awards Dinner, Sportime’s Jared El Gayeh was presented with the 10-and-Under Tennis Award which is given to the region’s top coach for U10 programming.

“That was a really amazing award to receive,” said El Gayeh. “But it doesn’t just go to me, it goes to my entire team here at Syosset. They work so hard day in and day out. I can’t take credit for it myself, I’m just one piece of the puzzle. I give them as much credit as myself for the award.”

That modesty is one of the many things that has made El Gayeh such a revered figure at Sportime. He began working at Sportime when he was just 14-years-old, and through the years, he has coached hundreds of young athletes in a variety of team sports, including soccer, basketball, hockey and more. He now brings his incredible energy to Sportime Syosset’s U10 tennis program.

Although he didn’t play much tennis growing up, his love of sports and desire to teach children has led him to this unique opportunity as U10 Tennis Director:

“I played a little tennis growing up as a kid but I hated the fact that my coaches had no energy or enthusiasm,” he recalls. “I always told my parents that when I was older I wanted to be a fun coach that makes the sport enjoyable for kids.”

El Gayeh would go on to play soccer at Marywood University in Scranton, Penn. where he studied health and physical education, but didn’t give much thought to the idea of teaching and coaching tennis:

“I originally wanted to be a teacher. But after going down the road of my college career, I realized that putting me in a class of 30 kids and trying to reach them all with the same thing in the same way was impossible, because every kid learns differently. So I really geared away from that because that wasn’t my teaching philosophy.”

While working at Sportime, he began to do lots of training with Mike Barrell, who is known as one of the pioneers and gurus of U10 tennis programming, learning how to conduct drills and group lessons. Combining that extensive training with his personality and desire to work with kids made heading up the U10 program at Sportime Syosset a perfect fit.

“He is someone who has a dynamic personality and has the ability to motivate kids,” said Mike Kossoff, Sportime Syosset’s tennis director. “I’m fortunate to have someone out there who is able to inspire so many and also lead by example with high energy and dedication. To be full-time and focusing on U10 for just a year and to already win a USTA award is a testament to how talented he is. His willingness to connect with kids of all ages is contagious. The kids he is overseeing are the future of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy.”

One of the main catalysts of the U10 program across the Sportime locations is its World Tour event series, which has added a new element and provided the kids with something to look forward to.

“It’s a game changer,” El Gayeh said of the World Tours. “It gives the kids the experience as if they were on the professional tour themselves. They get player passes, check in, walk down the red carpet and get their pictures taken. It’s a great showcase for them. It has opened the door for so many parents and kids to go out there and enjoy the sport, showcase their skills and what they’ve learned in their training and group sessions. It’s a wonderful thing. I can’t explain how powerful this one aspect of our big picture is to these kids. They all look forward to it; it’s a huge deal for them and it’s an amazing thing.”

El Gayeh has been a part of the Sportime family since he was a young teenager and has climbed his way up the ladder to become one of its key members. Since he took over, the U10 program has increased from 200 kids to about 350 kids, and is still growing.

“Kids need positive people who are going to guide them in the right direction,” he said. “The most rewarding part for me is watching them having fun, enjoying the game and seeing them with smiles on their faces. Those are the times that mean the most, and remind me of how much I truly love what I do.”

Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com