Though rain threatened to spoil the day, tennis officials, children and Queens prosecutors got in a few good lobs during the 10th annual Say Yes to Tennis... No to Violence Day at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park Monday.
Hundreds of students from nine primary schools in the Rockaways showed up for the event, founded by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and former Mayor David Dinkins, old tennis friends.
"We love the game," Brown said to the students. "Hopefully someday you guys will have the opportunity to join with us."
The tennis day is the culmination of a year-long program that sends assistant district attorneys to the Rockaway schools to counsel students on avoiding violence, gangs and drugs. Tennis pros helped the students develop their swing and get a feel for the court. Many were playing tennis for the first time.
"A lot of these kids never get off the Rockaway peninsula," Brown said. "Just exposing them to the world of tennis is extremely satisfying."
Dinkins told the students that tennis offers long-term enjoyment.
"I'm an old man and I play five times a week," he said. "It's a wonderful sport. You make friends for a lifetime."
Dinkins also exhorted the children to focus on their education and not give in to peer pressure.
"For God's sake, if you're going to make a mistake, make one of your own," he said. "Don't follow the path of someone dumber than you."
The event's message of nonviolence likely rang true for one student. John Romano, 11, a sixth-grader at PS 43 in Far Rockaway, was shot in 2006 during a home-invasion robbery.
While waiting in line for a chance to volley with an instructor, Romano said he had never played tennis before.
"It looks like fun," he said.
Romano said his favorite sports are football and baseball, which he plays occasionally — but not to stay out of trouble.
"It's fun," he said.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@tim
©2008 Community News Group
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