Inspired as a youth growing up in Minneapolis, Dylan Kelly has returned to the ICT staff, to give others the same opportunity he had. Story by Brady Schmidt, ICT Communications & Marketing Director
Tennis has taught Dylan Kelly so many life lessons, you cannot count them on your two hands. He is a true believer that the game is a metaphor for life.
Dylan first picked up a racket in ICT’s Summer Parks program, when he was 8 years old. When he was 14, his friends started to play “in the domes,” on 40th & Nicollet, so he followed suit. When he turned 15, he became a Summer Parks Instructor and has been coaching ever since. Most recently, he came on staff, full-time, at InnerCity Tennis in the fall of 2015 as a Program Delivery Specialist.
“Tennis has helped me come out of my shell,” said Dylan. “In tennis, you must be the one to move the ball, you can’t let the ball move you...in other words, take control of your life...don’t let life control you.”
Tournament play, in particular, was an avenue that built confidence for Dylan. The pressure of tournaments taught Dylan how to control his emotions and play big points. He remembers being unseeded and paired against the #1 seed in the opening round of a Championship Junior Tournament. Dylan ended up taking his opponent to the 3rd set and beat him in a Super Tiebreaker. “I kept telling myself that, ‘I am going to hit this ball in - don’t slow down your swing now - this ball is going in.’”
“The more I learned to believe in myself, the better I handled pressure situations,” said Dylan.
In addition to confidence, tennis helped Dylan develop social skills. “Being paired up with different boys and girls in practice forces you to interact,” said Dylan. “It gives you a taste of real world social networking.”
Becoming a Role Model
Dylan now wants to replicate the tennis learning experience he had for other kids. “To help kids learn the game and give them the opportunity I had is something I really want to do. My coaches had a big impact on my life and I want to follow their lead.”
Dylan still talks to his coaches he had growing up, and hopes to be a similar role model for the kids he is coaching now. “My hope is that I can become a role model that kids can look up to. I want kids to know that they can be serious and still have fun. I want kids to know that they can be themselves on the court - everyone has a unique style of play, and that’s ok.”
Dylan graduated from South High School in Minneapolis, serving as the team captain, and went on to play college tennis at St. Scholastica, after receiving a scholarship offer from them.
When asked to reflect on how tennis has impacted him, Dylan said, “I’d say tennis has taught me some of the biggest things in life. You get so many choices and options during a match. You may not like all your outcomes, but you have to work with what you get...it’s just like life.”
Dylan has come full circle in the InnerCity Tennis youth program: from youth participant to tournament player to coach to staff. This is the model we hope to provide for many, many more youth!
At a recent training for ICT volunteers, Dylan summed up the potential of ICT’s impact, by telling the ICT volunteers, “Thank you for what you do. I can tell you from my own testimony that this program is not for nothing. I am a product that this program has helped produce.”
DYLAN KELLY PROFILE
● Favorite Stroke - Serve
● Favorite Player - Roger Federer
● Favorite Grand Slam - Wimbledon (most respected)
● Favorite Pre-Match Meal - chips (nice and light in the stomach)
● One Thing Others Don't Know About You - I'm adopted from Thailand.