Inside the Tour with Nina and Irina Tournament director Joe Ceriello on the NYJTL Bronx Open
All right welcome and has dot com podcast pantic joined by my co host irena falconi. Hey guys how's it going. Our guest in this episode is joe cirillo <hes> <hes> and we're talking about the bronx open and the new york junior tennis and learning n. y. J. t. l. for those who don't know who aren't familiar one of the biggest grassroots nonprofits in tennis education in the u._s. and we are sitting at carolina tennis center for learning where the bronx open will be held august sixteen to twenty four so joe. Thanks for joining us all right so great to be here all right so let's start with your story wide tennis. How'd you get into it and when it all began for you god. It's been a while albin in tennis. Almost twenty years now had a life before tennis is in the theater always wanted to do it and i knew i couldn't go to an office job. I i was passionate about getting gig and couldn't get a gig couldn't get a gig. I went to italy that worked for the open as a volunteer analysis might break into support like twenty years ago rome yeah. I have never been to rome irene have you i have been to rome and i'm just gonna go ahead and say the pasta is as good as they they sent it is a volunteer and you volunteered with the media with matches what we do in iran the offsite practice gordon durie poem. I was the only non italian their school that is a that's impressive. I mean everyone has their starts a lotta time guests on that our players and they all say no. My mom got me in china. China is my sister but <unk> talk people that are organizers interment directors. It's so different because it's like. Why are you in tennessee. What interests you do you have a big passion for it a big love her it yeah tennis tennis a big part of my childhood and i always love the sport. I wasn't really that great. You know later on when to run the player earlier development unit in new york and then i realized how bad i really was have experience to see people can really play the game but i've always been fond of it. It's pretty the amazing to go and just like pack a bag and buy a ticket to rome. When you're a volunteer i mean you obviously were not getting paid. I'm assuming and into just show up and did you speak italian. At least i didn't really speak to walk point yeah to be honest. Okay and did you end up staying. There like were you. There also also for like <hes> you know some people go there and just have like a semester in college kinda thing or you just strictly went there to be a volunteer for the tournament yeah. It was like like a life change. I was thinking about what i wanna do next and i plan to be there for a month and then wind up being six months eight months. It was short of a year but <hes> <hes>. I had a nice time and then you moved to working in the u._s._d._a. How did that transition happen because you're based in the u._s. Obviously you're not in rome. I'm the american my dad's an immigrant mentally but now i still trying to break into tennis and i was applying to the u._s. Two years and finally once at tennis on a resume. I got a job at my brecon was in the ticket office of the u._s. Open so all those years ago the u._s. Open okay that makes sense. U._s. opens just around the corner so i mean all kind of circles back and you're selling tickets revival you. You're hired this time. Yeah i was it was i was customer service. Ah i spent four years in office in that i was the head of customer service by the end of that was rough <hes> but really fun. It was my break against the sport. I mean for everyone listening. We're talking to the bronx open tournament director a w j international event happening in august and he's also the chief marketing officer surfer n. y. J. t. l. and you start off in ticket offices the u._s. jane now here. We are able to run the show. We're going to see i mean i've had a lot of lives in the sport org. I've literally done almost every job. People would make fun of me at the u._s._c. when i was there because i did have a chance in quite a few different parnes earns. It's crazy to hear so much n._y. J._t. al and <hes> it's just funny how small a world that is because i was totally part of the n._y. P. l. and and my dad recently just sent me a video of me like hitting. These court sees indoor courts and i. I was probably six years old. The racket was twice. My size and i still remember it just like it was yesterday but i mean it's such a huge part of so many american. I feel like eastern section action. Kind of players like it was a huge part part of my life. I know for that that for sure. I mean that's so awesome. That's my every day so i mean as <unk> as you mentioned on the chief marketing officer for near to learning and you know we we are a tennis and education program. We actually are the largest youth tennyson education <hes> nonprofit in the nation and that's our daily work and now the n._y. Detail bronx open is like the ultimate aspiration event for our kids. This and you know we work with over ten thousand kids throughout the year so our reaches much bigger when he talked about all the training we do in the schools but we are in all five boroughs. We are throughout the city and it's like hark schoolyard gymnasium. We are everywhere but tennyson bronx. Is it new because you mentioned to me that the a._t._p. Tournaments here before right in the bronx and now it's kerry leads the new center with the new home of the bronx open right right yeah so it's it's an amazing history. The organization's almost forty eight years old. We had an event in here from nineteen ninety three to two thousand twelve roll and then we built this carried center to twenty six and a half million dollar state of the art facility and carry leads himself was a great tennis player. Eric played for yale long history and it's you know i think players are gonna come back. They're gonna see what's here like cannot believe what is here in the bronx snow. It's it's beautiful. Everyone decide for this term it. Everyone in new york areas excited for tournament. I'm excited for this tournament. How do you make a tournament. How did you end up pulled pulled into this one or like some cogs in the things that happened behind the scenes like you said. Donations are a big part in my a._t._l. Is the backing of this the carry lead center owners here. You have to hire. I mean tournament director. You're you got hired umpires there's w._j. There's t._v. Had the sounds chaos teeny a little bit of chaos degrees so we worked on this event. We knew we were going to bring back a tennis tournament and we really spent the last year or so fundraising and we're all all set to run a hundred k. u. estate challenger event and simply over the moon and then it was a matter of circumstance in the deputy. They approached us and we had this opportunity to host a two hundred fifty k. international <hes> so between the u._s._d._a. the w._t._i. They've given us like tremendous support support for this tournament. <hes> it's more than we could ever dream so it's it's been a big year goodyear. We've been working hard. Ah chaos is probably not the word. I wanna use but i would say it is nonstop <hes> for those of you listening. I was actually part of the deputy counsel awards so i was in the meetings when we would get different pitches if you will from different places all over the world saying hey we want to run a tennis tournament so that is i think probably probably one of the first steps. You have to kind of send almost like a business plan. Is that right like to get them to come in and see the facility to make sure that it's up to par. Does that sound about right joe. Yeah you know actually a couple years ago. Steve simon came in. I think the first time was two years years ago. <hes> we invited him to look at the site and he loved it right from the beginning and then when this opportunity came up again he flew right in and he took look around and for me that was really dream because to have him walk around and tell you how he could see the tournament run. I mean as a first time tournament director <hes> it's pretty tips. You know it's like okay. You'd think so. Let's do it yeah. He would know he would know what's been like the most. I guess it's interesting like craziest thing that you've had to deal with as a first time tournament director because obviously i mean we all know about like okay. You have to get all the players players in there. The hotel sorted transportation. There's a lot of like obvious ones but what's been like the craziest thing that you're like wait. They want this like at at a tournament or this is what i have to do. Really you know there's it's hard to say just one because honestly there's been so many the hotels complicated indicated. Yes transportation's complicated. Yes the site setups complicated. Yes you know we're on park land and we have this amazing relationship with parks and you know getting all the permiting in and vehicles coming on and off and license plates and it's you know it's intense. It really really is intense so i wish i had like one thing but irene. That's honestly like fifteen things. You know. It's every time you turn around. There's more detail al the tournament doctor amount of level and the professionalism of the w. t. a. and how much you as a first time director you don't realize realize how much care processes into it down to an ambulance waiting on site to all prescriptions in the bag to the contracts contracts bringing on the medical team so that's one line item out of maybe a hundred fifty things and it's involved and people mostly largely care about the players are feel. They want to know who the big names are stars with the rising americans. Are i mean this. Is i mean i know there's a lot that goes on tournament as you just said but people really only care about stars and the player field for when i can tell is a good one we want young as the first seed so far johanna konta annette kante a carla suarez navarro maria sakari daniel collins and a girl. I'm excited about diana yastrzemski fast rising star. You have a combination of veterans young a young players. There's gonna be a ton of wildcards americans. Barbara streets of people love her. I mean there's a lot of players that are in because the u._s. Open they're not playing qualifying. At least those players are will be here. It makes sense to play a few matches. I mean does it make sense to play max. Julius open our one hundred percent. I know that there's one girl role that is going all the way to vancouver before <hes> use open qualities and you just gotta wonder like what are you doing. You know if you have a deep run. They're like the travel is just so much but if you're going to play in the bronx i mean what better warm-up you you you have. You're in the same state <hes>. I know it's a different borough zero but at least you're in the same state. It's not that much travel. If you're just going to stick around for the open right afterwards i mean it can't be a better setup or warm up tournament to be honest s. I think that's why our field is so good. I mean you think it's it's different borough but honestly distance from where the players players are staying in manhattan. We might be a hair closer you know so the commute is good and i think that's why the field is so intense <hes> and you're right i. I think that's why you know. People are like i'm in new york. I'm tuning up for the open. We've got a great you know. We have a small main draw and then a field the forty eight in quality so step back. You're going to see some good tennis and it's free so it's open to the public which is amazing which is part part of our mission. Now people can make a suggested donation for adults you know to support a tennis and education programs but if the realize we were set up as this hundred mccain we had a twenty year history in this park <hes> you know and if this was something we had more setup we might have taken a different approach but you know we serve our kids in the community so it's open to the public you wanna make donations programs could be a great good now i just i love the fact that it's in the bronx. I i grew up into seventh and broadway joe so <hes> yeah. I grew up playing an inwood. I mean it's not that far. My sister was born in the bronx. So i mean i would travel almost every day. My dad would come back from work at like four o'clock and i would get in the car. We would go to the stadium racquet club that was right next to the yankee stadium a._d._m. So it's just it's pretty cool. I'm kinda sad that i actually never got to play when it was a one hundred k. but yeah. I'm just excited. I know that the players are going to be just looking forward to the tournament but also knowing like hey. I don't have to travels a lot to get to my next tournament. Some some players are probably just staying in the same hotel that they would once. They start playing the open anyway well. Let's break it here. Why don't we announce it. You're playing next year yeah yeah. We've we're committed. That would be amazing. I will gladly. I would gladly played at that. I'm already pumped about it. I mean i'm i know i'm the gasp <unk> i mean what was your experience in retail so i mean that's so fascinating to me and you're a pro player in. I've i've been a fan. I saw you run across the court with the flag and i was cheering with everybody else. So that's so cool well yeah. It feels like forever ago so to be honest. There's very much very little. They're actually remember before. I was nine years old but i saw that video the other day and i could have been five eight. I'm like i was short anyway at both those ages. I really can't remember but yeah. I just remember like seeing me hit. I was so intense on hitting the crap out of the ball and i was just trying trying to get in on all these players all these girls i mean they're like twice my size but we would be there. During the winter i mean it was like five o'clock. It was pitch black and i would get in the car with my dad and i would just go over there and i would hit with all these kids and it was just so much fun and i know katrina adams this every time. She's me. She's like fellow j._t. Al player. I'm like yeah that's pretty cool. I mean it's it's amazing. How many kids were able to reach and yeah. Hey you have a pro. You have a couple of players that probably have gone through the n. y. J. t. l. system. Yeah i mean so. I know you talk to lisa uber and she's our executive active drector currently center for tennis and we also have off the role so oshawa role is on our staff. She was eighty two in the world and she won the bronx bronx open in doubles in two thousand eleven and was a finalist twice in singles in seven zero eight so we've got the history here so that's pretty cool. I i mean i. I just feel like the n. y. J. t. l. adds to kook element to this. Not a lot of a lot of tournaments have history. Obviously famous faces all of that but to have the kids involved old is really important because what if one of these kids this tournament ends up winning it in twenty years or something you don't know and that's kind of what you see that renew came through this and you use this program in yeah. You're on tore like it's it's pretty cool but also no player recruitment. Do you have to reach out and finds players and like you have contacts with your estate. Stay background. Can you text player and entice them. You pay them these fees. Like how does this all work. Are you offering out. I dunno <unk> appearance. Aren't thank like <unk> senate. You're charging you. Don't i'm so glad you said that because you know italian another life. I opened up the player development unit in york. Tim man all those years ago so we've had the chance to work with some really great local talent like <unk> chanko and christina mikhail christiaan beyond came out to train with us a ton of times <hes> louisa trico jamie lobe so i mean we'd love to have these women in the tournament ornament and i'm not going to give away any secrets yet but we're going to have a ton of american wildcards and they're gonna come out. We're going to be filled with young aspiring <hes> american tennis players. We're gonna have great players who are top ranked. As we mentioned wine konta <unk> daniel collins this came daniel collins was out here with new balance on a shoot last year <hes> and she's in the draw and i'm so excited her play. I'm a big fan of hers. Well <hes> but you know we've had. I'd love to see you know other bigger. American names like coco vandeweghe really help out in retail past. I'd love to see her in the mix. It's possible bethany matic. Sans is going to be our honoring this year at the leadership luncheon another incredible american talent. I'd love to see if that turns out our way as well so so we have a good field i mean we have. I can't even not sound excited because our field is incredible so if you like tennis come here perfect cell and i'm on-board except takes about i mean from the center of the city can take you an hour to get to flushing take an hour to get here arguably if you're in a car and ends up being about the same thing have the ability in new york to pretty much. Just walk a couple of blocks. Maybe find find the public tennis court and i remember i think i was like seven years old and we were we were we went to central park. It was either through reebok <unk> -til i cannot remember but i got to take a picture with steffi graf and jimmy connors and like i remember remember that and my parents still to this day they have that framed photo of me shaking hands with jimmy and unlike one third of his size and me and steffi anti-graft on my sister and i mean i still remember that like those are the moments that you remember for your entire life and it's just pretty cool to me the fact that you have so many kids are going to have the opportunity to pretty much shake hands and rub shoulders with professional players. You never know what that back to their lives. You are so right. I mean we're so lucky because we're next to the u._s. Open i mean last year alone. We had add nick curios practice. Come out with yonex and i mean they're incredible. When you see these players who really love kids inspire kids francis a story down in d._c. <hes> nicolaas is like right with the kids told you daniel collins out here. We got to meet serena arena last year. She spent so much time with our kids. <hes> venus played a match up here. She sent a picture of girls out on instagram. <unk> aphorisms like this is my favorite part of being here like when you see the players who are so inspirational to comment and give back so much. It just makes you you really enjoy what you do. You know it's all worth it. At that point. I think it all kind of it means more when there's something more behind it than just players making money and tournament china make money in ruins is obsessed with success in that monetary value while instead of thinking about the kids in the local area and i think part of it though is unique because it's the bronx and even i live in five years and when i think of the bronx i think far away sketchy scary and that's kind of a negative connotation. You don't agree because you grew up around here but i that's what i've been. I think and i think that's something that you have to find as well because you have to get clear that out and think tennis we worked so much with the bronco president he's ruben diaz juniors really supportive of our work. He came out <hes> last week. Four world team tennis new york empire matches. He's been really supportive of this tournament as well <hes> so you know i have a different different opinion now come out to the center in the center is beautiful so we're gritty earthy. We are true new yorkers <hes> <hes>. I think the players get enjoyed too. I mean you know i worked for the davis. Cup fed cup team for a number of years and i did all this community tennis events with the player so i see from their point of view to like. They're just trying to figure it out but i think the people here really gonna respond well so we'll see it made it probably ably had a negative connotation back when i was growing up but like all places you're going to have some sketchy areas in places. No matter where you are right i mean i went to school cool in middle school. I would take the train from two oh seven to harlem every single day and that's where i went to middle school back in the day. That was just what you did but if if you told that to someone today they'd be like oh my gosh but guess what harlem is so nice. Now true true very true how you turned out girl. You look <hes> pity exactly exactly you know what if anything harlem made me like super gangster to you know people don't realize new new yorkers. We are the friendliest people in the world. We just have a little bit of an edge. It's like tell us what you want now. We're going to give information but it's going to be quick. We're gonna move on exactly tackling. I wanted to know okay so this is the first year you're running the bronx open. Do you have any thoughts of looking ahead. We'll be back next year. Can you guarantee that so. How does this stay on the calendar even grow yeah. That's a great question so you know before we were the two fifty k. we were torn so we were the hundred k. challenger at this point. We know we're going to be an annual event. We had twenty years of history doing it. We now have this amazing center. I think the levels to be determined term. You know we'll see eye. Let's so book your calendars were in and now to see how grant it is and if someone wants to find find out more and ena not buy tickets but learn more about the bronx up where are we sending them sugar n. y. J. t. l. bronx opened dot org. That is a mouthful but it was short. It could make it n. y. J. t. l. bronx open dot work perfect. That's the website to go to to learn more about the bronx open. Which is a w._t._i. International event top fifty stars. I mean a loaded field of top fifty players. I don't know what more you want. <hes> runs august sixteen has been qualifying starts august west. Eighteenth mandrell begins just before the u._s. Open couldn't be more perfect and irene isn't a plate next year. That truly is the plan so okay so you you have a husband and you have two children. Are they into tennis as much as you are like. Do they have the love for it like to go and get on a plane volunteer rome kinda love for us so my youngest son is at camp this week here. <hes> i'm calling player. Development on a weekly basis not just is kidding. I think my oldest son is going to be a theater. Lover and youngest is gonna be a tennis and soccer lover so but they're playing only in the sport and they're enjoying it. So do you want them to play sports. Gonna theater do you think about. I don't know pushed him. Certain ways or is it. Kinda like tried everything well when when i had two boys i was like oh my god. I've got a wimbledon doubles team like i've got champions here and now at five and eight. I'm like they're happy and healthy i ah i don't know they're just there. That's the thing it's such strong. Personalities are just doing great. I'm tennis will be a big part of their lives and your husband is supportive of this madness. You've undertook for the bronx open house he involved in. Is he in tennis. Is he a big van or so. Are you on your own so we we are like we go on vacation and we play tennis together. That is like the only time he likes tennis. He's in theater business. He's like at benetton abroad we show before so it's like two different worlds but i will tell you if i did not have him. There is no way to do all this work. I mean you think i mean this literally my dream. I thought about being a tournament director for twenty years the stars align. It's a great opportunity. Yeah i mean i was literally. Do we on the practice courts in rome like with my poor. Italian communicating with transportation was hilarious now twenty two years later here i am but it's i mean it's all day all night. It's twenty four seven so you cannot do without a great team support system. I got it. He has got to be patient to let you work around the clock. Get ready for this yeah. I mean thank god you know what's great. Is that you execute in. There is an event so there's there's a window so i'm in that window. I'm in the thick of it and the second week of the open. I cannot wait eight to celebrate. Let's get drinks. I mean if there's one thing that you can <hes>. I mean if you can get past doing a practice desk at any tournament like that's unbelievable. Because i mean i will tell you that has got to be the hardest job one hundred percent. I can't think at a tournament so i told you i had literally every john so i ran the player service's death player sears for the open like a decade almost a decade so here is like we need to treat these players right so you know who's going to run our practice court desk oshawa role. I was like i need somebody knows what you know. Our players a lot of years and their favorite line is if you don't know what you're doing is what you know how they do it at another another place and guess what i should does so we put like really strong talent there. I was like i need you so she's coming through. We're going to have a great rate practice court desk thank you that is a i mean that's problem solving and kind things off at the head right right there and then smart play van smart play yeah yeah i mean how do you feel about sharing court sometimes warm over. What do you feel about that. I really could care less. I mean i really don't mind but <hes> vice favorite. It's it's when so you have practice at twelve o'clock right and there's a girl that's forth on and wants to do a warm up at twelve thirty. The only available court is to share with these girls that have a lot in an hour to warm up quickly in play points so the player that's coming in has a mash has priority already so they can come in and ruin the other girls practices because she is deciding to warm up to thirty set of twelve. That's my favorite and so all of a sudden you have one hour just like going cross and hitting serves when in fact he wanted to play points. I don't know if that makes sense to everyone everyone but for all those tennis players have experienced this. I'm sure you've experienced this to joe like. I'm sure girls have complained to you at like it's not yeah i mean it is intense. I have to say like these women are here to work and practice is a serious thing we have got got the three required practice courts but listen this site here we have access to twenty twenty courts plus the two stadiums so we're gonna have a a little bit of flexibility. Oh you'll be fine. Auch is gonna take care of those ladies here relying on a good team. That is the key to success here what we've learned earned and just rely on also <unk> tennis players. That's the key to hiring quotas players and letting them have their chance also the well. I mean when when we have our weekly meetings limited like lisa an offer like drilling us you know like oh. They're not gonna go for that. They're not getting. I'm like complain to semi now so that we can. We can meet the right expectations. We love having that. I mean you know so. We also have this woman. Her name is pam glad she was a former director again for the last five or six years. She's a tournament manager. This year has so much internal knowledge <hes>. I said we saw asha. I've been in the business twenty years so so we have some ops background. We've quite a bit and listen is big and it's coming on fast but putting it in the work i mean having liza huber on your staff is wild like four number one seven time grand slam champion and she's just roaming around. You know helping kids in shanghai wisdom. That's that's insane yeah. That's our daily life. I mean lisa. I are pulling off clinics all over the place and <hes> i mean the great thing when you're number one in the world you got this work ethic and this drive <hes> and we're pulling off a lotta stop and a complement to the whole team. The whole team is really we're. We're we're putting in the hours. It's been awesome. I honestly i couldn't have i would not have picked a better team of to run a tournament. You guys are gonna and do a phenomenal job and can't wait to play next year. Yeah i read those safer you can. I say one last minute. I'm so happy to be here because arena china we have this really great <hes> mutual friend <hes> eric perkins jasper al my gosh felt like i've been your best friend for like the last ten fifteen years because like i just talked about you to eric all the time so now i'm here with you so it's a small tennis where all end hilarious so now we're friends. Take my god that is so funny. It's really small tennis world. She is the bomb she is. <hes> she always tells me she's like. You know. We're going to run u._s._d._a. In like everything one day i'm like yeah okay erica. We got this yeah. I'm cheering for her. She's she's amazing. I mean every time i get together with her dislike. There's not enough hours in the day. I just love her and yeah. I am glad that we have that mutual friend. You must be good people to have her vouch for you like that. I think we'll end on that. Note wrapped episode up of tennis dot com podcast. We've been at the kerry leads tennis center for learning which is the host of the bronx open starting august sixteen <hes> again. What was the website w._w._w. Dot n._y. J._t. al bronx open dot org and our guest has been joe sarah out of the tournament director of the bronx open and the c._m._o. Of the n._y._j. T. l. i've been unit pantic annemarie n._f._l. Coney thanks for listening and thank you so much for being with us today joe. Thanks so much for having us. We are so excited <unk> this far <music> <music>.