Academy student and his father, Louis, join us to talk tennis
As a first grader at Our Lady Queen of Angels in East Harlem, Dylan Ortiz picked up a racket for the first time as part of his school’s weekly tennis PE class at Sportime Randall’s Island. After two years, Dylan’s athleticism, work-ethic, and natural aptitude led him to Sportime’s Excellence Scholarship Program. Providing intensive instruction to early-stage players, the Excellence Program builds on fundamentals to prepare students for more advanced training.
Now, ten-year old Dylan is one of the most promising young players in the Sportime/John McEnroe Tennis Academy, with a goal of playing competitively in college and beyond.
We sat down with Dylan and his father, Louis, to talk about tennis, the role the sport is playing in Dylan’s life, and some of his favorite off-the-court activities when he’s not training with John McEnroe.
Sportime: Dylan, you’re now in your fifth year with Sportime and are a student of the Academy, but thinking back to the beginning, what was it like when you first started playing?
Dylan: “Playing tennis felt a little weird at first, but then I just got into it. I’d never watched or played tennis before 1st grade.”
Sportime: And now?
Dylan: “I just love it. It helps me stay active. There are so many courts so you always have a chance to play!”
Sportime: We know Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are your tennis heroes — they are truly great champions! Can you tell us about your instructors at Sportime, and some of the things you’re learning?
Dylan: “I like working with the different coaches, even ones that are kinda tough on you. My favorite has been Guido! He helps me a lot with my racket skills.”
Sportime: You must be learning quite a bit. What has John [McEnroe] taught you so far?
Dylan: “I’ve met him on the court many times and he watches me play. He once saw that I made a mistake with overheads during bouncing drills. He helped me to understand that when the balls are bouncing the air is different, so what I should do is bend my legs a bit more and I’ll do better. And it worked!”
Off the tennis courts Dylan can be found watching basketball (his favorite team is the Los Angeles Lakers) or in his room reading. “I really like to read! I read graphic novels and a lot of chapter books,” Dylan said. His favorite subject at Our Lady Queen of Angels is math.
While his dream is to play professional tennis, Dylan plans first to attend college after high school and already has been exposed to competitive tennis. “I want to play more competitively…play in tournaments,” Dylan said. “I’ve already started to play in some.”
Sportime: We know it might be difficult to pick just one, but what would you say is your favorite part of being in the Academy?
Dylan: “The friendships I’ve made. You can make new friends from lots of different places. The friends I’ve made here, and my coaches, come from all over the city!”
We also spoke with Dylan’s father, Louis, about the impact that tennis is having on his son’s life.
Sportime: Dylan’s tennis career is just getting started, but he’s in one of the most prestigious academies in the country for young players. How excited are you about the future?
Louis: “The outlook and opportunities that the program has, and can offer Dylan, is really exciting. If he continues to work hard, the doors that could open to him are incredible.”
Sportime: Any favorite memories over the last five years?
Louis: “The whole thing. I don’t know much about tennis, certainly not as much as my son, but he’s always excited to break it down for me when I see him get feedback from his coaches. To see his comprehension and his enthusiasm, as a dad, you love that. And for us to be able to experience that together is pretty cool!”
Sportime: As the father of this talented young student-athlete, what have you observed about Dylan’s growth over the last five years?
Louis: “With his tennis, both when training and competing, Dylan has become much more confident. He’s become more competitive and he’s understanding better how to take things as they come -- how to react in the moment both on the court and off. And the competitiveness also has translated into school, he’s working harder in the classroom, too.”