The Simunyolas will receive USTA Eastern’s Family of the Year Award for their years of dedication to tennis, one that stretches among over 10 individuals and across many generations.
The Simunyola family runs the Kela Indoor Tennis in Mount Vernon, NY and features numerous tennis instructors and coaches with unwavering passion for teaching the sport. Kela Simunyola, who came to the United States from Zambia on a scholarship to Concordia College in Bronxville, NY, inspired tennis as a family affair ever since.
Kela’s stepdaughter Kylene Murray, who helps run the business with her mother, Ligaya, says winning the award is an honor. A former professional player ranked in the top 400 and coached by Kela, Murray, speaking of her brothers, uncles and other family members, said it’s great to be recognized for the efforts. “Most of them do it without realizing how they impact people and the type of involvement they have in the community,” she said. “They all do it out of the love for tennis and being able to reach and share the game of tennis.”
A former director of tennis at Lake Isle Country Club in Eastchester, NY, Kela helped build the venue into one of Westchester’s most prominent. Through his efforts, the club’s membership increased, as did involvement with USTA programs, according to the nomination letter. He coached at Concordia, his alma mater, as well.
In 2011, Kela and the family opened Kela Indoor Tennis, which includes an emphasis on junior player development. Katrine Steffensen of Scardsale, NY, who recently signed to play for Princeton University, is one of the program’s prodigies. She’s currently ranked No. 33 nationally and developed under Kela’s tutelage.
Due to their success over the years, the family has plans to open a six-court indoor facility and a nine-court outdoor facility at Memorial Field in Mount Vernon. “It’s nice to see the whole process and the growth of the club,” she said. “I remember when I was younger and he started out teaching a couple kids. Everybody was seeing the improvement in those kids and things started to grow.”
Now, Kela is actively coaching Murray’s daughter, who is six, ensuring that the family’s distinguished tennis history will continue through the generations. “She’s doing really well,” said Murray. “With her grandfather, she’s in good hands.”
For the future, Murray said that the award provides further motivation for her family. “We’re all just focused on continuing the same path in growing tennis. It’s definitely a passion for us and it brings our family together,” she said. “We think that tennis is a great way to bring a lot of different families together.”
The family grows even bigger when events take place at Kela Indoor Tennis, especially when juniors and their parents take part. “It’s great because everybody comes together and we’re like one huge family,” said Murray. “With the new facility coming, we’re just looking to grow the family more.”
For more information, visit http://www.eastern.usta.com/.