On May 17 the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School named the tennis courts in my name. It was a huge honor that I will always treasure. But the honor should be shared by many who helped me during my tenure as the boys’ tennis coach and I would like to acknowledge them here.
First, I want to recognize the significant contributions that Paul Pertile made for me in 2012 and 2013 as my assistant coach. In great measure, our work together resulted in winning the two state division three championships in those years.
Secondly, I want to congratulate the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the town of Oak Bluffs for having the foresight to allow the establishment of the Vineyard Youth Center on Barnes Road. Led by executive director Scott Smith and his staff, the excellent training the players (both boys and girls) are now receiving is contributing to the high caliber of play once the players reach the high school. A specific note of thanks should be made concerning Gerry DeBlois who initiated the whole idea of a tennis facility for the youth of the Island.
Third, I want to acknowledge the boosters club lead by Carla Cooper for its support of the team. I wish to also thank Barbara Leonard for her contributions, not only as the treasurer, but also as my personal representative for the boys’ team on Carla’s organization. I also want to acknowledge Diane Smadbeck who served as the head of the boys’ boosters club for 12 years. Certainly, the contributions of the parents of the players as part of this organization needs to also be acknowledged with my personal thanks.
Fourth, I must recognize the contribution of the 140 players who played for me over the course of 23 years. It is significant to note that five players who attended the dedication ceremony were starting members of the first championship team in the school’s history in 1996 when the team split wins with the old Cape and Islands League’s perennial champion, Nauset Regional. They are Will Barlett, Charlie Bailow, Louis Smadbeck and co-captains Rob Dickson and Bruce Gray. Among many players from off-Island in Massachusetts, one came from Connecticut, another from Rhode Island, and two came from as far away as Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon.
Also attending were the two co-captains from the state championship seasons in 2012 and 2013. They are Kent Leonard and Justice Yennie. As a note in the defending championship run in 2013, Kent went undefeated and Justice lost only once. Over the two years of their leadership, the team went 55-1.
Fifth, the bench at the courts that bears my name with a bronze plaque is really very special. In this case I don’t know whom to thank directly, so I thank all who contributed to its creation. It is marvelous.
Sixth, I must hurl accolades to the Magnificent Seven! Who are they? They are the athletic directors that I worked for, and with, during my tenure. In my view, the AD’s job is one of the toughest in the school system requiring huge personal dedication and long hours on the job. During my career, they are Donald Herman, Russell MacDonald, Paul Harrison, Mike Joyce, Glenn Field, Sandy Mincone and Mark McCarthy.
Specific thanks goes to Russell MacDonald who wrote a letter to the administration proposing that the courts be named in my honor, and to Mark McCarthy for organizing the dedication ceremony.
Finally, I want to thank my father who put a racquet in my hand at the age of seven or eight and taught me the game. Two to three times the player I ever was, he taught me that sportsmanship was as much a part of the game as was the ability to play.
To Josh Schaan, I wish nothing but the best as the new head coach of the boy’s team. You’ve had a terrific start and your young team is going to get better every year!
In closing, I read somewhere that life is a series of moments. Most are indistinct but some stand out, like birth, marriage, graduation or winning a championship. For me, dedicating these courts with my name is a moment my family and I will never forget. I am pleased, honored and humbled at the same time.
For all who have supported me during my career, thank you so very much.
Ned Fennessy retired last year as boys’ tennis coach. He lives in Oak Bluffs.