The USTA today announced high school tennis coaches Jim Neal from Niskayuna High School in Niskayuna, N.Y., and Jim Solomon from Hall High School in West Hartford, Conn., have been selected as the 2011 United States Tennis Association Starfish Award winners. This national award recognizes high school coaches who implement a "No-Cut" policy for their tennis teams.
A No-Cut policy ensures that every student who wants to play is welcomed as a member of the team. With more than 3,500 coaches nationwide implementing this initiative, some high school programs have more than 100 tennis team members. These coaches serve as positive role models and make a difference by spending the extra time and effort to best ensure that thousands of young players experience the fun of representing their high school tennis teams.
"We are proud to honor Jim Neal and Jim Solomon for their efforts to ensure players of all levels are part of a team," said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. "They have both made a positive impact on the lives of their students, school, and the sport of tennis."
Neal has been coaching tennis for 18 years. His teams have a strong reputation for good sportsmanship and playing fair, which is a reflection of their coach. This past season, his Niskayuna High School tennis team consisted of 71 players—37 girls and 34 boys. For the past eight years, players from either his girls’ or boys’ tennis team have advanced to the New York State Championships in both singles and doubles.
Neal has spent the past 36 years as a volunteer at the City of Schenectady’s Central Park, where he helps maintain the 17 public tennis courts. In 2009, he secured funding from a private, anonymous donor to resurface the Central Park courts. Jim also makes the Central Park courts available for a variety of USTA Sectional events, including adult, mixed double and senior leagues, as well as Jr. Team Tennis.
Solomon has been coaching tennis for 37 years. This past season, his Hall High School team consisted of 97 players—50 girls and 47 boys. Solomon’s varsity program is a perennial Top 10 team in the state of Connecticut, with scheduled matches and post-season tournaments overseen by the CIAC. A 2001 USTA New England High School Coach of the Year award recipient, his overall career winning percentage is astounding, at just under .900 (463 wins and 62 loses).
Aside from coaching, Solomon has had a major impact on the lives of his students, instilling the importance of education into his players, from the time they come in as freshman and continuing
to guide them to the appropriate college. Solomon continues to keep in touch with his students through college and beyond, and is in many ways seen as a father to numerous kids.
To qualify as a Starfish Award winner, coaches must have implemented the No-Cut program at a high school and be nominated by USTA Sectional Coordinators. Final winners are determined by a select panel of USTA committee members, staff, volunteers and career no-cut coaches.
Neal and Solomon were announced back in June along with seven other national finalists for the 2011 USTA Starfish Award. The following are the seven finalists for the 2011 Starfish Award: Terri Cunningham of Winter Park High School in Winter Park, FL, Kenneth Griffith of Henry E. Lackey High School in Indian Head, MD, Donna Stauffer of Lafayette High School in Wildwood, MO, Roger Sunderman of Hastings High School in Hastings, NE, Don Tellefsen of Oak Creek High School in Oak Creek, WI, Marceil Whitney of Redmond High School in Redmond, WA and Matt Wiemers of McCook High School in McCook, NE
Neal and Solomon will be honored at the United States Tennis Association Community Tennis Development Workshop held January 13 - 15, 2012 at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, La, the largest annual gathering of grassroots tennis leaders in the United States. The Starfish Award, now in its seventh year of existence, has recognized twelve coaches since 2005.