Learning to love the tennis game early: Ethan of Brooklyn meets Mary from Queens

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FLUSHING, Queens — When I met 7-year-old Ethan Harry of Brooklyn on the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream line at the National Tennis Center, I immediately sensed he was a kid with spunk.

He was wearing a snappy, fedora-like hat and a T-shirt from Yale, a gift from his aunt.

“Connecticut is all about Yale,” Ethan observed of the Ivy League university, which is nestled in New Haven–the place where Bill and Hillary Clinton met in law school.

Ethan is about to enter second grade at the Anderson School P.S. 334 in Manhattan, which is a city-wide school for gifted and talented children. Ethan proclaimed it “one of the best schools in the city.”

He told me he LOVED tennis.

Right then, I knew we had one, big thing in common.

Ethan was attending Arthur Ashe Kids Day with his mother, Odinga, and his 3-year-old sister, Elizabeth.

The event is sponsored by the United States Tennis Association (USTA)–and this year, the USTA officially launched the Net Generation, the organization’s new approach “to inspire the next generation of tennis players.” It will specifically work with children ages 5 to 18, with the goal of providing a “kid-friendly, safe connection to the sport.”

Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is the premier venue at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, is named for the late, great American player, Arthur Ashe, who died at age 49, in 1993, from complications associated with AIDS.

Ashe won three Grand Slam titles, including the first, U.S. Open championship of the modern, Open era. He’s the only African-American man to ever win the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and the Australian Open. He was the first selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team.

It’s believed Ashe contracted the HIV virus from a blood transfusion he needed during heart bypass surgery. He went public with his illness in 1992.
Former President Bill Clinton awarded Ashe the Medal of Freedom–the nation’s highest civilian honor–posthumously.

7-year-old Ethan reveled in all the activities available at Arthur Ashe Kids Day, and the chance to learn tennis with the pros.

Ethan is way ahead of me. I didn’t take a tennis lesson until I was in my early 40s.

But, like Ethan, I immediately developed a passion for the sport.

Kids’ Day has traditionally been a forum for up and coming musical artists.

This year, Sofia Carson and pop duo, Jack and Jack, were among the entertainers.

Over the last two decades, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day has showcased new artists like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, and Backstreet Boys — who all went on to become superstars.

Among the tennis stars Ethan was photographed with: Gilles Simon of France.

Venus Williams of the United States and Rafael Nadal of Spain joined in some festivities on center court.

After Ethan and I sat together to eat our ice cream cones (he likes vanilla), he relayed a quote to me that he heard on TV.

“Kindness counts,” Ethan said.

“Yes, it does,” I replied.

Then Ethan made me laugh with his follow-up remark.

“When I’m 57, I’ll do this again.”