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Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs
One day, a tennis star set up camp in Haverford, and summers on the Main Line haven't been the same since.
By Dawn E. Warden
Kids and adults love Julian Krinsky. And, yeah, he's a lovable guy—especially when he's behind the wheel of the company, er, school bus. No doubt about it, Krinsky has found the secret to entrepreneurial success: Find something you enjoy and do it with passion. And that something keeps multiplying.
Since coming to Philadelphia in 1977, the mastermind of Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs has amassed a business empire that encompasses property management services; resort ownership and operations; and staff recruitment for sports academies, clubs and events. Not bad for a South African immigrant who opened up shop with little more than ,200.
A tennis star in this late teens who was ranked as high as No. 7 in his home country, Krinsky played in Wimbledon and the French and Italian opens. A scholar as well as an athlete, he earned degrees in both accounting and law. When he first arrived in the United States, teaching tennis full-time was not something he even considered—let alone entertained the prospect of doing so here. He'd merely stopped in the area on his way to North Carolina to make good on an invitation to play at Merion Cricket Club. But he fell in love with the natural beauty of the Main Line and never made it to the new job in Carolina.
Money was tight in those days, and teaching tennis was a good way to make a few bucks. Krinsky quickly compiled a roster of students from all over the region, some traveling two hours for lessons. Within three months, he'd forgotten all about becoming an accountant.
Krinsky's commitment to practice matched his pupil's determination to improve, but distance was becoming a problem. His solution: a weekend camp at his home in Wayne so students could spend less time in the car and more time fine-tuning their strokes. He set up bunk beds, pitched a few tents and hired a couple of local chefs to cook meals. During the day, it was tennis, tennis, tennis; evenings involved field trips to places like Woody's driving range, Hershey Park and Great Adventure.
"They were great days," recalls Krinsky. "There were kids everywhere. I couldn't get a shower because they would use up all the hot water."
At times, there were as many as 20 students staying at Krinsky's home. He realized he was onto something—and that he needed to take that something to the next level. So he leased space at Haverford College, hired an assistant, and he Julian Krinsky School of Tennis was born in 1978.
By today's standards, such an unorthodox approach might have raised a few eyebrows. Krinsky was young, attractive and a bit capricious, but his integrity and enthusiasm were never in question.
"We knew the parents and we knew the kids," says Plymouth Meeting's Jim Talbot, whose children attended JKST for five years. "We had no reservations. Julian was developing solid tournament players, and the kids were having fun."
Back then, JKST was cutting-edge. By the time Nick Bollettieri began building his world-famous tennis-camp empire, Krinsky was already organizing training trips to Bollettieri's Florida stomping grounds. "The parents went, too," says Talbot.
Soon enough, Krinsky introduced golf and squash instruction into the mix. From there, he moved into cooking, art, music, drama, SAT prep and more. JKST went from summer camp to a summer academy with a new name, Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs, and new locations at the Shipley School, University of Pennsylvania, and Cabrini and Bryn Mawr colleges. New there are a dozen different programs available through JKCP, with enough variety to keep kids active and interested for throughout childhood.
Ultimately, Krinsky's keen awareness, flexibility and adaptability have served him well. Today JKCP is one of the most recognized and respected organizations in its field, attracting kids from all over the world. With such global reach, it's really no surprise that one of the newest programs being developed is "Model U.N." Aimed at high school students, it will provide a forum for instruction in political science, international relations, public speaking and debate. "Ten percent of our campers are from the Far East, the Middle East, South Africa and almost every city in Europe," says Krinsky's business partner, Adrian Castelli. "Most of it is word of mouth."
Older campers have an innovative array of programs from which to choose, including a summer internship, a Wharton business program at Penn and another program specifically for observant Jews. A current favorite is the Canyon Ranch wellness program, designed to educate teens about nutrition, fitness, relaxation and getting the most out of sports.
A holistic approach is what sets JKCP apart—that, and Krinsky's commitment to connecting with the campers and their families. "My greatest challenge is getting to know every one of them," he says. "I have to make sure my team is taking care of the details so I can be freed up to be with the kids."
And that's not small feat, seeing as JKCP's residential program hosts 3,500-4,000 campers a year (overnight campers make up 80 percent of the business; day camps the remaining 20 percent). That requires 35 year-round employees and more than 400 seasonal staffers.
"I have a year-round relationships with many of the kids who come to me," says Krinsky. "I see most of them from the time they're 3 until they're 17. Some [of them] are now bringing their children to me."
Michael Rouse was a former Krinsky student. And as one of the founders of ESF Summer Camps, he is now a competitor.
"I spent five to seven days a week on the court with Michael," Krinsky says. "I'm proud of him—and I take his business venture as a compliment."
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