One-on-One with Men’s Tennis Coach Kerner Elie

By Mari Rivera, Contributor | 

What is your goal for the team this season?

Well, our goal is always to do better and get to the playoffs and have a better position so we can at least have a chance to go to nationals. That is usually our goal.

What team would you say is very competitive?

We have three teams that are very competitive to us like CSI, Baruch and Hunter. Those are like the usually the ones that knock us off. They have a very good team compared to our team.

What type of motivation do you give your team before starting the game?

Well that starts from the beginning of the season. We always like giving them encouragement because, as you know, the players and the school are not included. They are kind of like come in and sign-up to play for the team and most of the time they are not really tennis players. We try to turn them into players since I teach tennis, so my job is to teach them to play and if I get them to stay for the four years at the end of that fourth year they, at least, will be able to take us to championships — because the first year you get them, it’s a little bit difficult, you’re kind of  like training them how to play because tennis is not a sport anyone just plays. It’s a sport like when you are a kid, you pay to go play and most of the kids around here have never done that, and we have one player in our team who has been undefeated for three years and the reason is because he took tennis lessons as a kid. So in the CUNY we have the best number one player, so he never lost a match.

So he’s the number player in CUNY?

Yes, yes. His name is David Orjolia — he is our best player and usually when we have him play a match we are guaranteed to win two courts because he plays double and single, so those two courts we always win. If we had one more player like that we would win the championship because actually we will win four courts. The other one court we need we always manage to win somewhere else.

How many days a week do you train/practice with them?

We practice usually for three days and have a match once a week, so minimum three days and maximum five days we own the court.

How many hours?

Our practice is usually a two hour practice, and they also do physical training at the gym.  We did not have that first year so we are adding more stuff to the team as we go.

Basically you have a lot of rookies in your team?

Yes, I have one good player and everyone is like. Let’s see I have 11 players in total. 5 or 6 are almost beginners starting out, 2 or 3 are low intermediate and David is very advanced because he can play at a Division 1 if he chose to but I think because Betty Davis offered him a great opportunity and it’s cheaper than most schools. He went to St. Johns the first year and quit when found out he could get the same thing here for less. That is the reason we have him.

And he is three years right?

This is third year, he has one more year.

What are you going to do right after?

Right now what we are doing is trying to recruit players because last year, my first year, I came when the season started this year we are trying to recruit from colleges, internet and other countries. It is a little difficult to get from other countries because we don’t have scholarships. I have a lot of good players who want to come and they say to me “well, what are you giving me?” I say we are giving you a great education but you have to pay for they go like a D1 school pays for them to come and give them rooming board and expenses they have in the school so we don’t have that advantage.

We have to work with what we have if we had eager player who have little bit of skills and  we can teach them. I have an assistant coach who played college tennis also and so the two of us played college tennis and teach as a profession.

You teach outside of school also?

Yea that is my job.

Where do you teach?

I teach in two places in Cunningham Tennis for 30 years and Park Wood Tennis for eight years.

What is one team you want to go against?

There is not one team per say my goal is to beat all teams in the league like the three teams I mentioned.

How many teams have you played against so far?

We played against four teams so far, lost three and won one.

Would you say your team has a rivalry?

Not yet. We can’t say that.

Would you like to?

We would love to against Baruch because they have a good tennis team.  They are the ones winning the championship.

Why isn’t the school providing scholarships?

There are two reasons: the first is because if you are a Division III, schools are not allowed to give scholarships but D-I give grants either ways. We can offer them a grant. The athlete here usually the ones that play in the streets or with their friends or played in high school but are not really skilled and, when they come here, the coaches are trying to give them more skills. Reason number two is because of the unskilled kids we have. I have players in my team who don’t know.  Tennis is a game you know ahead of time.

The other thing I would say that gives us a disadvantage is we don’t have any field in the school. Every school we go to has tennis fields and we don’t. We have to go practice in the park and sometimes they don’t want us there, sign up for a court in the park, in most of the school the players play in campus because they have a tennis court.

That is why we practice two or three times a week or else we would practice 5 times because by the time we take the kids out on the bus

How do you travel to the courts?

We have a school bus, I drive the kids. When we practice late, I don’t finish until midnight. If we have things on campus it would be easier and we would have more tennis players they can go practice anytime.

What park do you usually practice at?

We practice at Frederick Douglas on 151st and sometimes further.

Who is your assistant coach?

Henry Stay.

Are there any tips you would like to give to beginners?

The first thing is, just start.  Get in the court and the rest will come to you. In tennis there is always a teacher around.

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