High School Spotlight:
Todd Rubinstein, Mourning High
Arthur Kapetanakis | October 12, 2018
Todd Rubinstein, a varsity tennis coach and special education teacher at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High in North Miami, was recently honored as the 2018 USPTA National High School Coach of the Year.
A USPTA elite professional since 1992, the Sharks boys’ and girls’ head coach is in the unique position of being both a full-time teacher and a decorated teaching pro, allowing him to maximize his impact on his student-athletes.
“It makes life so much easier, being here on campus,” he said. “I’m in the classroom, so I’m more visible; it’s a big benefit. I get all the information, I see the kids, I can work with the teachers, I can talk to the guidance counselors if need be.”
Also the 2017 USPTA District 16 Professional of the Year and the Team USA head tennis coach at the 20th World Maccabiah games in 2017, Rubinstein is entering his 18th season as a high school coach. ADVERTISEMENT His high school teaching and coaching career has had three stops, all in the South Florida area: Piper High School, in the late 90s; Barbara Goleman High School, for 13 years following that; and Mourning High, since 2014.
He has amassed over 400 wins in his career, with his current post proving to be the most successful. In addition to three consecutive district championships for the boys’ team and three straight district finals with the girls, Rubinstein also helped guide two of his athletes to individual state championships, the first in the school’s history. Tom Jaworski won the state singles title in 2016, and he teamed with Edward Luca to win the doubles crown in 2017.
“My student-athletes believed in me and in the program, and it was about a progression,” said Rubinstein. “It was something that took a little time, but once they saw the direction that we were headed, everyone was completely on board. It wasn’t just about the players. It was about the administration at the school, the other teachers, the AD. I was able to bring everybody onto the same page.”
Rubinstein himself was a two-time state singles champion at his position in his high school days, when he attended Cooper City High School. He won those individual crowns in 1987 and 1988, and helped his school win its first state championship in 1988.
At Mourning, he runs a no-cut program for both his boys’ and girls’ teams, rostering 25 players across both squads in an effort to expose as many kids as possible to the game of tennis. Despite all the on-court success, Rubinstein is most proud of the 100 percent graduation rate of his student-athletes.
“That’s my pride and joy,” he said. “The academic side is what makes coaching high school so special. I also love seeing them live life after graduating and moving on, graduating college, getting married or having kids.”
Mara Cerrini, who played for Rubinstein at Mourning, followed in her coaches’ footsteps to play for Barry University, also in Miami, where she was a member of back-to-back Division II NCAA champion teams. Barry men’s head coach George Samuel, who coached Rubinstein for two years, remembers his former pupil’s aptitude on the court.
“You could see he was very goal-directed and had leadership qualities as a tennis player. He led and enjoyed being on a team,” he told the school’s athletic communications department. “He has always been around tennis and I'm happy to see that he is being recognized for doing such a fine job.”
Unlike his former college coach, Rubinstein is not permitted to recruit for his teams due to high school regulations. Instead, his well-run program acts as its own recruiting tool, as potential student-athletes see the success and want to be a part of it. But at the end of the day, according to Rubinstein, the on-court results are secondary.
“When I look back, it’s really not even about the tennis; it’s about all the stuff outside of it. We talk about the high school experience altogether,” he explained. “High school, for some of these kids, it’s the best four years of their lives. It’s something that I’ve been proud to be a part of, empowering these kids to take a role in society and be the leaders of tomorrow.”
Outside of his work at Mourning, Rubinstein also finds time to be a teaching pro, currently at the Smatt Tennis Academy at the David Park Tennis Center, where he is the assistant director of tennis and a head pro. On top of that, he just concluded a three-year term on the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Tennis Advisory Committee.
“I’ve been doing this for so long and I love what I do, so I make it work,” he said.
As a no-cut coach, Rubinstein’s charges run the gamut, from well-groomed players at the top of the lineup to tennis newcomers near the bottom.
One of the coach’s favorite moments came when his No. 5 singles player, in his first year ever playing tennis, won the district singles title at his position with comeback victory that ended in a third-set super tiebreaker.
“It was like he won the US Open. I just ran on the court, picked him up and spun him around. It was one of the most exciting moments. I was so proud of him that I can’t even begin to tell you,” he said.
“It’s moments like that that make me love what I do.”