Career military leader Yaniv Levi, who is a Lieutenant Colonel and Logistics Liaison Officer in the Israeli Air Force, points to his early years at the Israel Tennis Centers as key to his success as an adult. Yaniv was introduced to the ITC when he was 10 years old, and until leaving for the military at the age of 18, he had a multitude of functions at the Harry & Evelyn Burg Israel Tennis Center in Arad.
“I gave back in so many ways because I just loved the ITC and what it did for me as a child. In the mornings, I helped with the maintenance of the place. In the afternoon, I helped coach other younger kids. And the real inspiration for me was the Manager Al “Burt” Tannenbaum who taught me to be the man I am today. He is still one of my best friends to this day.”
Growing up in Arad with his mother and sister, the ITC became like a second family, and Al was like the father he never really knew. Yaniv spent hours hitting a ball against the wall outside the center until one day he was invited to play on the courts. From that moment he knew he had found a place that was welcoming and nurturing, not only for him but for all the children in Arad who wanted to play. It made him and all the children feel proud to be tennis players. “The ITC was somewhere to go to not only have fun, but to feel inspired, challenged and hopeful. The life skills I learned made me a better person.”
“Burt taught me so many values that I remember to this day… qualities I try to instill in my own children. Things like concentration, controlling one’s emotions, having a strategy for success, honesty, self-discipline and the ability to make good decisions. Also, being afforded the chance to travel during the holidays taught me to be independent while introducing me to various parts of Israel. And perhaps most important of all, I learned to never give up. I call it ‘Fire In Your Eyes’ determination to succeed and leave a positive footprint for the next generation.”
Yaniv feels that the ITC gave him all the tools he needed to be a successful military leader, as maintenance squadron commander and rescue helicopter airborne technician. He was responsible for a force of over 800 men and women. “I could not have done this if not for what the ITC and Al Tannenbaum taught me when I was younger. I remember playing in a match one day, but being a kid I decided I did not want to shake the hand of my opponent when it was over. Al saw that and told me to go home and not come back until I understood what I did was wrong. That kind of life lesson… to respect your opponent… has stuck with me to this day.”
Even today, decades later, Yaniv comes back to the ITC to see old friends and reminisce with Al, his mentor. “I was always inspired by how much he cared for all the kids in the community. His door was always open to us for any help we might need. His commitment is really what I mean when I tell people that the ITC goes well beyond the sport of tennis. It touches the very fabric of life.”