| By Steven Kaplan

The most important person in local tennis over the last 25 years that you have probably never heard of is Mike Silverman. Mike is director of sports for the City Parks Foundation, but his first love is tennis. He has been the point man for raising an extraordinary amount of money to support free tennis programs sponsored by the foundation throughout New York City. I don't know the exact amount, but I will guess it is about $5 million raised, and it has improved the lives of thousands of children through the sport of  tennis.

Mike has the marketing savvy to help attract major sponsors to his tennis programs such as Reebook, Chase and Nike. He oversees a benefit dinner at The U.S. Open each year which has honored Billie Jean King, Rod Laver, Chris Evert, John McEnroe and many other "A" list tennis names who loyally support New York City, and tennis in the parks. Mike's tennis mission is to grow and promote the sport in New York by providing opportunity and he has remained true to this mission. As a result of Mike's dedication, the city continues to have a wealth of tennis opportunities that it would otherwise lack.

In order to be fair and balanced, I feel compelled to mention that while Mike is a good golfer, what he posses in areas such as programing, promoting, marketing, fundraising and management, he falls short in his tennis playing ability. How poorly does Mike play? Let's just say it's the one aspect of Mike's relationship with tennis that you are better off not knowing (just teasing a little here, buddy, those who have played you know you've got skills).

Steven Kaplan

Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.