Braniac Tennis Founder Esther Forrester

Esther was born in London and raised mainly in Manhattan and Long Island. She started out doing gymnastics and track and then switched to tennis after being scared by going into the woods and getting lost running cross country. Esther also trained with a nationally ranked runner who was a year younger than she was, but soon realized that, “I’m not even as good as someone a year behind me, I’m no good.” She was an honors student in high school and attended Stony Brook University.

Any memories of playing sports while you were growing up? 

I remember hitting the ball against my garage wall and breaking a few shutters and my parents being not punishing me. I remember how much peace I got from hitting against the wall and being able to learn without the watchful eye of an instructor. I also remember persistently learning a back dive because I thought it looked so cool.

What did it take for you to play D1 tennis?

Playing D1 tennis takes talent and luck. A coach has to be willing to take a chance on you unless you’re like the absolutely best junior. When in college, playing D1 sports takes sacrifice as well as dedication. In addition, college sports are about the team and sometimes it involves doing what’s best for the team even if it means you aren’t in the limelight.

What inspired you to start a youth tennis program in NYC? Tell us about how ELF/Brainiac got started.

I started ELFTennis because I saw a need for more tennis in the city, it seemed like there were so few facilities compared to how many people lived in the five boroughs.  I saw a glass ceiling if I worked at a club. In addition, I wanted to hone more skills besides teaching to make myself more versatile. My boss from Eastside Tennis one summer said I shouldjust try it and keep pounding the pavement so here I am. I like to say I’m a self taught MBA. I chose the name ELFbecause those are my initials- Esther Louise Forrester and I felt that ELFTennis captured the sentiment of our programs,which was to teach tennis to young kids. I later renamed the business Brainiac Tennis because I wanted to expand and include older kids and adults. I choose the name Brainiac Tennis because I emphasize smart playing and learning strategy even at a young age.

What makes Brainiac different from other youth tennis/sports programs in NYC?

I think we are unique in that we prepare students for match play to compete from day one. We also offer exciting and engaging games with songs and characters and story lines making the class relatable. We use music to help kids gain rhythm and make the classes memorable. Our classes are small and we offer scholarships to people who can’t afford it. We offer classes in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. Because we utilize portable nets we can bring the classes to where the students live. Many times we have created classes for the students based on their own geographic and travel needs. Our aim is to bring tennis to as many people as possible.

How does tennis compete with other sports for young people these days?

I think tennis struggles to some degree. Its selling points are that it’s a lifelong sport. In addition, an hour of tennis burns a ton of calories. Furthermore, it’s a powerful networking tool.

What about Brainiac tennis makes you the proudest?

I’m proud that we have high customer satisfaction and that we service kids from all areas of the city. We are able to bring tennis to them. The fact that parents have said that their kid didn’t like any other sports until they attended my class is heartwarming. In addition, we care about kids as a human being not just as a client. We go above and beyond to get to know the kids and their families. Furthermore, we are all about producing results and helping the kids make progress. We offer kids progress reports as well as before and after videos to help them understand where they need to make improvements. Furthermore, we help students fund tournaments to compete in when they are ready and track their development.

What do you look for when you hire a coach to work with kids?

I look for someone with extensive playing and teaching experience. Someone who relates well to kids and connects with them and makes the kids feel comfortable and entertained. I want someone who is a motivator.

You must have lots of great stories from your years working with kids. Tell us about one that inspired you.   

One of the kids that I coached when he was six is now one of the top Juniors in the world and played the US Open Juniors. He was six years old when I coached him but I still want full credit for his development. I could tell that he was keen, strong, hard working, and singularly focused. In addition, his dad was highly vested and watched all of the lessons.

What was the best advice you got from a coach? Hit deep.

Do you still play sports yourself?  

I play and compete all over the tri state area. I’m someone who will travel anywhere.

What is your most treasured sports possession? My sweatband. It really comes in handy along with my scrunchy.

What is your favorite (professional) sports venue in New York City and why? National Tennis Center, full service facility, large and kind of glamorous p, also they have the play sight where you can track all your stats.

Favorite sports book? Winning Uglyby Brad Gilbert

Favorite sports movie? Rudy

Best sports memory? Making all county for the first time by overcoming after I lost the first set and the crowd was nasty.

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