When John McEnroe and Claude Okin created the John McEnroe Tennis Academy (JMTA) at Sportime Randall’s Island in 2010, and later at locations on Long Island and in Westchester, their commitment to each other was to create a diverse and inclusive tennis learning community where talented and hard-working young athletes from New York could thrive and reach their tennis potentials, regardless of their families’ financial circumstances.
A couple of years later, in 2012, with that goal still driving their shared mission, the 501c3 not-for-profit Johnny Mac Tennis Project (JMTP) was formed. The charity’s purpose is to raise and deploy funding and resources to support free community-based tennis programs, both on Randall’s Island and in the surrounding communities, and to provide scholarships for under-resourced players to train at the Academy, all with matching underwriting support from Sportime.
While tennis remains largely inaccessible to many, it can be a powerful “game changer” for young players, providing educational and life opportunities for those who embrace the sport and excel. JMTP not only provides the necessary resources and training to allow more young New Yorkers to access tennis; it assists a growing group of talented and committed juniors, who lack the resources to pursue the game independently, to reach their tennis potentials, with many of those players competing at the highest levels of junior and, ultimately, collegiate tennis.
One of the most impactful JMTP initiatives is its ongoing partnership with BNP Paribas, to create a team of young athletes aptly titled BNP Paribas Mac 1. The 10 members of the BNP Mac 1 team receive fully-funded year-round training, coaching and travel support, and have become some of the USA’s most promising and deserving young players. Chosen based on financial need and tennis merit, BNP Mac 1 players need to perform at a high level on and off court, including upholding high academic and behavioral standards. Annual means testing assures that JMTP players are part of JMTP’s mission to remove the social, racial and economic barriers prevalent in tennis.
One of JMTP Mac 1’s most impressive young players is Long Island’s own Jack Kennedy, the 14-year-old junior standout from Huntington. Kennedy has been training at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy for several years, and in 2021 was accepted into the Mac 1 program. Since then, he has elevated into one of the nation’s top junior players.
“Jack is the embodiment of how we want our Mac 1 players to represent themselves and JMTP on and off the court,” said Ryann Cutillo, the Executive Director of JMTP. “Not only is he a very talented tennis player, he is an even better young person, who works extremely hard, cares about others, and shows leadership qualities that we rarely see in a kid his age.”
“I had been a JMTA player for many years, so my coaches knew me already and saw my potential,” Kennedy explained. “As I played more tournaments, JMTP saw my results and my sportsmanship, on and off the court, and they chose me based on this. I started in the program in September 2021, and my first tournament as a BNP Mac 1 player was the Les Petits As USA playoffs, which is a pretty big deal.”
At those playoffs, competing under the Mac 1 banner, Kennedy proved he belonged among the country’s and world’s best players, as he won the event to qualify for the Les Petis As international championships in France, the world’s most important tennis tournament for 12-14 year old players. “BNP/Mac 1 has really helped me improve by letting me receive more training and coaching than before, as well as opportunities to travel and compete in more tournaments,” he explained. “They are very supportive by allowing me to play a full schedule and by providing the training and resources that I need to improve my game.”
Kennedy’s results have reflected his opportunity. In 2022, Kennedy claimed both the singles and doubles titles in the Boys’ 14s division at the USTA National Clay Courts, and he followed that by making a run to the singles finals in the Boys’ 14s division at the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl. Those performances led to a sponsorship from Adidas for Jack to rep their products on-court.
“I was very happy to receive the Adidas sponsorship,” he said. “It’s a big deal to me, because it means that I am doing things the right way on and off the court. All my hard work is coming together and really paying off right now.”
A major part of Kennedy’s success is his approach to competing. His seriousness, composure and sportsmanship are on display at all times. While quiet and reserved off the court, Jack is a mature and calculating player on it.
As his primary JMTA coach Greg Lumpkin explains, “At the level at which Jack is competing, all the players have highly developed tools and weapons, but Jack’s discipline and dedication has really been there for a long time.” Lumpkin added. “He’s been a uniquely disciplined and mature player in every practice and every match, and his composure and mental strength allow him to stay the course during the toughest moments. Jack takes things one point at a time and has a very professional approach on court, which you don’t often see from someone his age.”
Based on his results and commitment to his tennis, Kennedy made the decision last year to attend the ICL Academy, an online school that supports students following their passions outside the classroom by offering its students the flexibility to pursue those endeavors without sacrificing academic achievement and high standards.
“It was different at first, getting used to being online and doing all of my classes on the computer,” said Kennedy. “But now it’s great. They are so flexible, with me traveling to all these tournaments and everything. They do a really good job of letting me Zoom with my teachers and creating a great school environment. It has been so helpful for me.”
The support and cooperation of JMTP, Sportime/JMTA and many others have allowed Kennedy to fully express his work ethic and passion and to accelerate into one of the best young players in the Country. The USTA is also part of team Kennedy, welcoming him to its National Campus in Lake Nona, FL to train and supporting him when he travels to ITF tournaments as part of the USTA contingent.
Kennedy’s success reflects his commitment and hard work, the support of his family, and especially the long-term support of JMTP and Sportime, through their shared mission to help young tennis players realize their true potentials.
Jack Kennedy remains more excited than ever to continue working on his game and pursuing his dream. As he explains it, “I am just working on staying disciplined with my game, and staying solid and consistent. The goal now is to continue to get better at every aspect of my game and in general. If I can do that, the results will be there.”
Cutillo added, “We are so proud to support Jack, and we can’t wait to see that the future holds for him!”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com.