Five days a week Ed Cruzat runs his tennis academy with the hopes of not only teaching the fundamental skill of tennis but to allow being in a positive environment to help kids attain social and life skills to go along with playing the sport.
Ed Cruzat is the founder and director of the Ed Cruzat Tennis Academy. Cruzat is a former NCAA Division 1 player of University of Cincinnati and Howard University and he represented the school at the NCAA championships.
Cruzat grew up playing all types of sports but tennis was the sport where his passion lay.
“My father liked sports, he ended up picking up tennis later on in life, and had us playing it, part of playing the sport had to do with discipline, athletic skill, and just fitness in general,” said Cruzat
Cruzat’s mother taught ballet in the inner city schools of Chicago while he was growing up, “she took kids from the projects and transformed them,” said Cruzat, this is where the motive to want to start a program flourished from.
He felt it was very important to have a program that allowed kids freedom to be themselves, learn athletic skills, social skills and life skills but also get them off the streets and into an activity that was productive and helped them to become disciplined but also have fun while doing that.
This is the main reason he began the Ed Cruzat Tennis Academy.
The idea to coach tennis in high school at first did not spark interest, in Cruzat.
“Most sports coaches in high schools are gym teachers and not division 1 collegiate athletes with the background extensive as mine,” said Cruzat.
He now coaches tennis at Whitney M. Young Magnet high school in Chicago Illinois.
A majority of the tennis players from Whitney M. Young attend his tennis academy as well.
“As a student I think it was beneficial being here and getting to know coach Cruzat, I got to learn more, meet new people and being with my coach helped me get back in the swing of things with the team, and being apart of the tennis academy has helped me build a stronger player to coach relationship which in doubt has helped me improve,” said Alexis Orr a junior councilor and camper at the tennis academy.
“Coach Cruzat is not only my coach but my mentor and has helped me learn skills in becoming a good role model for the younger kids that attend the academy,” said Orr.
Cruzat takes pride in mentoring his students and players.
He has helped watched some of his campers grow from campers to teens and then as they turn into junior councilors they reflect what they have learned from Cruzat to the younger campers.
“I definitely see myself as a role model, I just wanted to be able to show the kids what I have learned over my career as a tennis player, and help them become better at an earlier stage, basically what coach Cruzat did for me I want to do for these kids,” said Davion Belk a junior councilor at the tennis academy.
While teaching the kids about tennis and just life in general at the camp, Cruzat wants to see smiles and happiness on the faces of campers so he often jokes with them and incorporates games with his lessons to insure they are having fun.
“Having fun while learning is one of the keys to life, it is one thing Coach Cruzat tells us almost on a daily basis,” said Dakarai Barklay another junior councilor of the academy.
“Coach Cruzat is also quite the jokester and he exaggerates a lot and that helps me, when a coach is too serious it makes it less fun,” said Barklay.
Cruzat has made life long friends with the parents of some the campers and has had an impact of some of the parents as well.
“From a parents point of view I will say that this man has benefited the life of my child,which has benefited my life, because this is my child, she comes to his academy learns tennis, learns all types of skills and makes friends, he taught my child a lifetimes supply of skills and she is only ten years old,” said Sean Fontno a parent of one of the campers.
“He is a great role-model and mentor and my child loves him, we will definitely be back next year,” said Fontno.
Ed Cruzat’s tennis academy is conducted using the Skinner Park tennis courts as well as some of the facilities at Whitney M. Young high school.
Passing by the park Cruzat can be seen hitting a tennis ball to his campers, and them returning the hit.
Smiles and laughter can also be seen on everyones face, defining everyones fun.
“I just wanted to make a difference, and I think I’m doing it,” said Cruzat.