Thursday, May 3, 2012

April Aces, Ponkka and Rinaldi Receive USOC Coach of the Year Honors

Last month's top performances are compiled in my regular "aces" feature at the Tennis Recruiting Network, and in the months when there are USTA National Championships, the difficulty is in keeping the number manageable. Special thanks go out to Melissa and Lloyd Clayton at YourGameFace.com, who provide the photo of Boys 12s champion Sangeet Sridhar. Check out their website to see some of the new poster options they are now offering.

Yesterday, the USTA announced the four coaches who were named USOC coaches of the year for 2011. I know two of them, Kathy Rinaldi of the USTA, and Vesa Ponkka of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., quite well from our frequent interactions at major junior tournaments.

Rinaldi, who was named USOC National Coach of the Year for Tennis, has been traveling extensively with Taylor Townsend, Samantha Crawford and Allie Kiick for the past year or more, and she just returned from the Junior Fed Cup qualifying in Mexico with Townsend, Brooke Austin and Gabby Andrews. Her travel is mind-boggling even to me, and I travel a good bit myself, but she's always cheerful and seems to thoroughly enjoy her role as coach.

Until yesterday, I didn't know about Rinaldi's award, so I didn't discuss it with her at Carson or the Easter Bowl, as I might have, but I did hear about Ponkka's award when I was arranging an interview with him for an article I wrote about Mitchell Frank.

Ponkka is the second coach from the Junior Tennis Champions Center to win the Developmental Coach of the Year award, with Frank Salazar receiving it for 2008. I asked Ponkka his reaction and if he expected it to produce any benefits for him or the JTCC.

"It's very nice to be recognized for influencing players in a positive way, there's no question about it.

"I'm not really looking at how it will benefit me, I'm just planning on keeping doing what I am doing until they carry me off the tennis court. I told my wife I will never retire, because I don't feel like I'm working, so there's nothing to retire from.

"It's a very nice recognition coming from USTA Player Development. It's a big honor, and I will treat it like that.

"High performance is such an inflated word and concept nowadays. It's such an in word. Everybody is high performance, every player and coach and facility. But we (JTCC) look at it that you either have good training or bad training.  We like to think we are training well, we try to keep it simple.

"Of course it's great, because I have some really great young coaches, and it's great for them to see that Frank (Salazar) and myself and Chuck (Kriese) have been recognized. It's sort of like young players, who can see that hey, if these guys can do it, then I can do it. So in that sense, I look at it as motivational for our young coaches."

The other two coaches receiving recognition are Craig Boynton, who was named USOC "Doc" Counsilman Coach of the Year for Tennis for his contributions to the sport in the areas of training and conditioning, and Dan James was named USOC Paralympic Coach of the Year for Tennis.

Boynton has been working with former University of Georgia star John Isner for the past three years.  Isner's college coach, Manny Diaz, was the National Coach of the Year in 2008, the year Salazar was Developmental Coach of the Year.


deserving said...

Kathy is so deserving of this award. Not only is she a great coach, she has an incredible eye for talent. She has also coached Caroline Doyle, who has had some great results as well.