The LITLSS program was created by Danny Burgess, a long-time tennis coach on Long Island. Sadly, Burgess passed away last month. You can help support his family during this tough time by donating to the GoFundMe Page.
LITLSS programming continues this Fall with tennis lessons for kids held in conjunction with the Freeport and Merrick PAL organizations. For more information, please visit www.tennislifeskills.org and click on Junior Programs.
Tennis truly is the sport of a lifetime, and for the kids who are involved with the Learning Institute of Tennis, Life Skills and Sportsmanship (LITLSS), that mantra could not be any truer.
The LITLSS, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was started more than 30 years ago by longtime tennis coach Daniel Burgess, who continues to run the program, and the group, who range from Pre-K through 10th Grade, just wrapped up a successful summer despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Social distancing was a bit of a challenge. My wife is a nurse, so she would come down and help us mark off areas where the kids could stand, provided masks and did temperature checks,” said Burgess. “We ran the program for about five weeks and no one got sick, so it was a success...This was the best thing that could’ve happened to the kids this summer. They’ve been locked in their homes for months, and these are kids who are used to being active. So to get out of the house, go outside and play a sport, they were all very excited.”
The program is free for kids to attend, and the program asks for donations but they are not required.
“We do ask for donations, but we don’t require it,” added Burgess. “We don’t want anyone coming to us and saying that they can’t afford this, so it’s free. I want to make sure every kid has the opportunity to experience tennis.”
And like the program’s title indicates, it does more than just teach tennis skills to the kids. The kids get writing and reading enrichment classes once a week, as well as cultural enrichment classes which this year included a demonstration of West African dance.
The kids did their part to give back to their community this summer as well, helping clean up debris from fallen trees in the park and on the tennis courts in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias.
Because of their hard-work and community service, the program got a visit from Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. Now three decades in, the program continues to flourish and Burgess continues to hear from many of his former students on whom he has had a major impact.
“I felt like I could help these kids through sport, and through a sport that they can play for a lifetime,” he said. “I spoke with one of my former students just recently, who went onto join the FDNY. 30 years after I first taught him, he wants to start playing tennis again. Those are my biggest success stories, the people who have come out of the program who have gone on to be civil service workers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, social workers, and many of whom have gone on to become tennis directors or top coaches.”
You can learn more about LITLSS by visiting www.TennisLifeSkills.org.