Remembering Sol

Photo credit: Melanie Rubin

One year ago today, I got a phone call from my friend, Melanie. Usually, when Melanie calls, it’s to chat and catch up on our kids and our lives. Not this time. This time, Melanie called to deliver some devastating news: that our dear friend, Sol Schwartz, had died.

Sol’s sudden death took everyone by surprise. This man was the poster boy for fitness and healthy living. He worked out religiously, ate well, avoided drugs and alcohol completely, and was one of those people who spread good karma wherever he went. To say he was beloved is an understatement as evidenced by the SRO at his funeral and the fact that his long-time place of employment, Holabird Sports, actually closed shop for the day to honor his memory.

So, now a year has passed and a lot has happened. Sol’s daughter graduated from high school and started her first year in college. Sol’s son is thriving on his high school baseball team. Sol’s wife has surrounded herself with friends and family who are helping her live in a world without her husband. And, we, Sol’s friends, have found many ways to remember him and share his legacy.

For me, that way is #theSol junior tournament.

I won’t repost the details of our first #theSol event (you can click here to read about it), but I do want to talk about what the tournament looks like as we move into Year 2.

Because of the success of our first go ’round, we were able to secure additional sponsor money – HUGE thank you to 10sballs.com! – to kick off our next round of events. UTR is continuing to be a major part of the tournaments and has helped connect me with tournament directors in various cities who will be hosting their own #theSol tournaments in 2017.

The first confirmed event will be played at Georgia Gwinnett College just outside Atlanta July 17-19, 2017 with tournament director David Stolle running the show alongside GGC head coach Chase Hodges. David runs numerous UTR events throughout the year, so I feel good about putting #theSol in his very capable hands!

We are hoping to have Sol’s tournaments in the Baltimore area, one in Florida, and one in Texas, but those events are still in the negotiation phase as we work to secure venues and dates. Of course, as we nail down the details, I will share them here and on the ParentingAces social media outlets, so please keep these tournaments on your radar as you plan your junior player’s schedule for the remainder of 2017.

We are working to attract additional sponsors so we can continue to provide a top-notch tournament experience to the players and their families. My goal is to have #theSol be a true reflection of all that Sol wished for junior tennis. It’s a tall order, but I’m confident in our small but highly dedicated committee and the tournament directors who have expressed an interest in being part of this special series.

It looks like we have found a way to continue Sol’s work to #SaveCollegeTennis as well. We will be establishing a fund – using some of the sponsor dollars and net proceeds of the events – through a 501(c) non-profit organization that will award grants to college tennis programs at risk of being cut. I was hoping to partner with the ITA on this part of things, but there are too many hurdles for that to happen this year. Maybe in future years we will be able to conquer those hurdles and work with the governing body of college tennis – I think it’s a partnership that makes perfect sense.

As is fitting, I spent my morning playing tennis, wearing my Holabird long-sleeve that Sol included as a little treat in an order he filled for my son shortly after we first met. For the record, I won my match which, I’m convinced, had as much to do with my Forever Cheerleader Sol as it did with any so-called skill I exhibited on the court. Like all who had the privilege of knowing Sol, I am missing my friend today.

In my religion, we remember and honor those who have left us on the anniversary of their death. It’s called observing yartzeit, a Yiddish word equivalent to yor year + tsayt time. Today, I am remembering and honoring Sol by sharing him with all of you. I hope you will help me continue to honor him by participating in #theSol events, either as a participant or sponsor or volunteer, and by supporting your local college tennis teams. I will be cheering on my favorite team this weekend and will know that Sol is smiling down as he watches his legacy live on.

Tennis Hero Sol Schwartz

14993407_10154735364138628_4277545365350693616_nThe November/December issue of Tennis Magazine is dubbed “The Heroes Issue,” and my friend, Sol Schwartz, is one of the many heroes of tennis featured (click here for the article). So, in light of everything going on around the world, I figured today would be a great day to re-run my tribute to Sol. He continues to be the model of a good, gentle, loving, caring human. (For more on the junior tournament we held in Sol’s memory, click here.)

 

Yesterday, I received the devastating news that my friend, Sol Schwartz, had died suddenly due to unknown causes. He was 46 years old. He was a husband, a father of two, a son, a brother, an uncle, a coach, a mentor, and a friend.

And here is where I could put on my “Journalist” hat and go through all of Sol’s accomplishments – both personal and professional – while pontificating on a life cut short.

But I can’t go that route. My heart is hurting too badly, and I need to share the Sol I knew and loved. Love.

I first “met” Sol in the way I “meet” so many people these days: via Facebook. He and I were both members of a tennis-themed group and both posted regularly, I about tennis parenting and he about college tennis. I guess it was our passion for the sport that first drew us toward each other. Sol began tuning into my weekly radio shows and calling in to ask questions and share his opinions on a regular basis. Soon, he and I started talking on the phone, discussing what we could each do to improve our sport.

In the spring of 2012, Sol came up with the idea of hosting a non-sanctioned open-age-group tournament with the winner receiving a one-year sponsorship from Adidas. He worked with his employer, Holabird Sports, and his contacts at Adidas to bring the tournament to life. He then invited me and my son to participate. How could we say no? Rather than telling you about our experience here, I urge you to read this piece so you can get a feel for what this tournament meant to my son and the other players.

That Holabird-Adidas tournament was the first time I actually met Sol in person. But when he picked us up at our hotel to take my son for a practice hit, it was like being picked up by an old friend. There was no awkwardness, no moment of hesitation, simply a connection that was already established because of our extensive phone calls and Facebook interactions. This man was genuine and good-hearted and took us into his city and into his home and made us an immediate part of his family.

We spent that weekend with Sol, his wife, his kids, his in-laws, his co-workers, and countless others who had the good luck to be impacted by this gentle man on a regular basis. Our friendship was forever sealed.

Sol became my biggest cheerleader. He would text me encouraging messages and post things like “Rockstar Tennis Mom” on my Facebook page. By that point, I knew what a big heart he had, but it wasn’t until Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern coast of New York that I got a real sense of what his big heart could do.

As soon as he heard about the devastation, especially to the area’s public and private tennis facilities, Sol initiated a fundraising campaign through Holabird to get the local coaches back on their feet. He solicited donations from all his industry contacts for things like cases of balls and hoppers so the coaches could get back to work. He took to social media and posted daily on the various tennis groups asking for donations of time, money, and equipment. He connected with the local USTA office so he could stay on top of their needs. When they asked for something . . . ANYTHING . . . Sol delivered. He was their angel during a time of real crisis.

It was during that crisis that Sol was introduced to Melanie Rubin (Noah’s mom) and decided that she and I needed to meet. He put us in touch with each other, and we became fast friends, talking on the phone at least weekly over the next several months.

When my 50th birthday rolled around a couple of months later – which also happened to be Sol’s 43rd birthday (how could we have NOT been friends when we shared the same birthday?!?!?) – I got a huge package in the mail postmarked from Baltimore. Sol remembered how much I had LOVED the area crabcakes when we were there for the Holabird tournament, so he had a case of them shipped to me. I think it was at that point that my husband truly understood why my son and I had become so close to this sweet man.

A few weeks later Sol called me up and suggested something waaaaay outside the box. He told me I needed to apply for media credentials at the

Sol's caption: At the opening with the ladies of ParentingAces fame #usopen2014 — with Lisa Goodman Stone and Melanie Siegel Rubin.
Sol’s caption: At the opening with the ladies of ParentingAces fame #usopen2014 — with Lisa Goodman Stone and Melanie Siegel Rubin.

upcoming US Open and have Melanie there as my assistant, two Tennis Moms sharing their experience through ParentingAces, me as a spectator and Melanie as the parent of one of the players. Never in a million years did I envision ParentingAces opening THAT door for me, and it NEVER would’ve happened without Sol’s belief and encouragement. That was his gift, though – seeing things in people that they wouldn’t dare dream of seeing in themselves. And it fostered a deep friendship that will live on, only with Sol smiling down from above instead of standing right there beside us.

Throughout the end of my son’s junior tennis years and college recruiting, Sol was there as a sounding board, not just for me but also for my son. He would check in with both of us on a regular basis to see if we needed anything. And periodically we would get little surprises tucked into our Holabird orders – t-shirts, hats, socks –  Sol took care of us on so many levels. He had a sixth sense alerting him to call or text me at precisely the times I needed to hear from him. And his words of encouragement always did the trick.

For my son, Sol acted as a mentor. He would ask the right questions or just listen if that’s what was needed. And my son was but one of many young people who had this type of relationship with Sol. Just ask the kids who play on the UMBC team (which Sol fought so hard to save when it was announced both the men’s and women’s teams would be cut after this year). Or the kids who train at the local indoor courts. Or the kids who come into the Holabird headquarters. Or, I suspect, the kids who play sports with Sol’s own children.

My heart is breaking. For myself, yes, but especially for Sol’s amazing wife, daughter, and son who have to find a way to honor his memory as they continue to live life without their rock. If I know Sol, he will come up with ways of

Sol, Dori, Evan, Ilene
Sol, Dori, Evan, Ilene

encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves, whether appearing in their dreams or on the wind or as a voice in their hearts.

Sol, my friend, I will miss our conversations. I will miss our debates. I will miss my little surprise packages. I will miss your passion for our sport. I will miss you.

I keep picturing you, tennis racquet in your hand, backward cap on your head, fighting the good fight from above. I would tell you to rest peacefully, but I know “rest” isn’t part of your vocabulary. Trust those of us you left behind to continue the good work you have started. It is how we can best honor the man, the gentle man, that is Sol Schwartz.

#TheSol

14115070_331410673860060_7610644223125533679_oI don’t even know where to begin in writing about this past weekend’s Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In tournament . . . aka #TheSol. I find myself at a loss for words as I attempt to describe exactly what transpired in Pikesville, MD at the Suburban Club. It was a junior tennis tournament, yes, but I feel as though we experienced something way beyond your typical weekend of matches.

I’m not going to re-tell my Sol stories here – y’all can read my previous posts and listen to my podcasts to get a feel for who Sol Schwartz was and why we wanted to create a tournament in his honor. I guess the best thing to do is simply to recount the weekend to the best of my ability and hope that those who were present will chime in with Comments to add depth of meaning to what was surely the most special tournament I’ve ever attended.

I arrived in Baltimore on Friday afternoon, and Melanie Rubin, who was part of the planning committee, picked me up on her drive in from Long Island, NY. We went directly to the Suburban Club to check out the space and figure out how best to set up for the weekend. After hanging our tournament and sponsor banners, we grabbed a quick (albeit very late!) lunch at Panera (how appropriate given the hundreds if not thousands of meals I ate there during my son’s junior tennis years!) before meeting Sol’s sisters-in-law, Laurie and Sherri, back at Suburban to complete the player goody bags and figure out our strategy for the next morning’s tournament check-in. player tableMelanie and I had our stuff spread out all over the pro shop but finally got organized to the point where we felt comfortable leaving for the night. We stopped by our hotel to check in and unpack, grabbed dinner at a local sushi spot, then both fell asleep to the sights and sounds of the Olympics on tv.

The next morning we got up early to dress, eat breakfast in the hotel lobby, and get to Suburban before the players started to arrive. When we got to the club, there were already a few players warming up on the courts, and Sol’s mother-in-law, Ina, was waiting for us outside the pro shop. Once Eric, the staffer on duty, arrived to open up, we got to work with tournament director Salman Bader from UTR organizing the draws, player credentials, goody bags, t-shirts, and check indrinks. As each player checked in, Ina was in charge of handing out their credentials, I checked them off the player list, and Melanie handed them their goody bag and tournament shirt. They were then free to go warm up or just hang out and wait to be called for their first match.

Let me talk about the player goody bags for a moment . . .

These were NOT your usual junior tournament player gift! Here’s what every player got – inside of a racket-sized nylon backpack from Holabird Sports:14067925_331410630526731_5562744538765482222_o

  • Full-color player book
  • Under Armour socks
  • $10 Holabird gift card
  • Packet of Genesis string
  • ArrowBar
  • Bryan Brothers poster
  • Autographed photo of Noah Rubin
  • Travel umbrella
  • Player patch from 10sBalls.com
  • Magnets from Holabird and Kassimir Physical Therapy
  • Miscellaneous other items such as pens and stickers

At promptly 9am, the first matches were sent on court amid blue cloudless skies. The weather couldn’t have been any more perfect. Sol was working his magic from above! With 32 players, we had 12 matches at 9, another 4 at 10:30, and then a nice break to enjoy the delicious lunch provided by Steve’s Deli. lunch

During lunch, it was amazing to walk around the club and see kids sitting together, parents sitting together, and Sol’s friends and family taking it all in. In most tournaments once your child’s match is finished, you’re rushing off to find them something to eat so you can get them back for the next round. Not so at #TheSol! We wanted to honor Sol’s commitment to creating a sense of community around junior tennis, and providing lunch on site was just one way we accomplished that goal.

Round 2 took place in 2 shifts after lunch, and Day 1 finished around 2:30. Many of the players hung around to hit a little more, but most went their separate ways as Melanie, Salman, and I cleaned up and got everything ready for Day 2. That included going back to the hotel (and my laptop!) to set up a Facebook page (click here) for the event and get the gazillion photos (click here and here) Melanie had taken uploaded! That night, Sol’s wife, Ilene, and her sister, Sherri, took us to dinner at one of their favorite Italian restaurants. Let me just say that the wine and brownie sundae were especially delicious!

We didn’t have to get quite as early a start for Day 2 since matches weren’t scheduled to begin until 9am. That said, when we arrived at Suburban, the courts were filled with players warming up, and the grounds were filled with parents, coaches, and spectators out to support this amazing event.

The weather forecast for Sunday was pretty iffy, but we got the matches started on time. Unfortunately, the rain came in right in the middle of our final round of singles, so we brought all the Facetiming with Noahkids into the pro shop for a special surprise: a FaceTime Q&A with Noah Rubin! He was gracious enough to take a little time away from his US Open Qualies preparation to chat with the players and answer their questions about how he trains, what he eats, what’s in his tennis bag, and balancing all the demands of a professional tennis player. The kids (and parents!) loved having the chance to talk with him!

As soon as the Q&A finished, Steve arrived with the day’s lunches, so we encouraged everyone tolunches go ahead and eat while we waited for the rain to clear out. The staff at Suburban went to work helping get the courts playable, and by 11:45 we had the kids back out there.

It didn’t take long to crown our first winner: Kaitlyn Chalker from Marietta, GA! She was smiling from ear to ear as she heard about her girls winnersprize from Wilson: 2 rackets, a pair of shoes, 6 sets of string, a 12-pack of overgrip, a racket bag, and 2 outfits of her choosing.

A bit later, the boys winner was decided: Ramanaidu Kotnana from Ellicott City, MD. Ram also got the same Wilson prize package and was so excited!Boys winners

But, we had 5 separate draws in this tournament, and the winner and runner-up for each draw received a prize. Our main draw runners-up got a $50 gift card from Holabird Sports (in addition to the $10 card in their goody bags). The winners of the other 3 draws each received a $20 Holabird gift card plus an additional small gift, and the runners-up received packets of string, hats, and socks. All of the awards were made possible through the sponsors we secured for the event.

We got a second bout of rain before the rest of the singles matches could finish. Thankfully, Suburban has a bubble with 4 courts, so we moved the rest of the matches indoors. By that point, the outdoor courts were sufficiently soaked, and we made the unfortunate decision to forego the afternoon’s doubles exhibition matches. The weather continued to worsen throughout the afternoon, so in retrospect it was a very good call.

All that was left was to clean up and get to the airport for my flight back to Atlanta. Sol’s family and the club staff helped out, and we left Suburban looking as though it had never been invaded by 32 players, their coaches and parents, and about 50 additional volunteers and spectators!

As I said, it’s difficult to put into words how this event felt. Even so, here are a few short (unedited – editing is outside my skillset!) interviews with some of the parents and players – as well as Sol’s wife, Ilene – to give you a better idea:

With massive amounts of help from Universal Tennis, I’m really hoping to make #TheSol into an annual event as well as to take it to other cities around the US. I think we have found a tournament formula that works! In all my years of schlepping to junior tournaments, I’ve never seen one where everyone just seemed happy to be there throughout the entire weekend. People were even smiling during the repeated rain delays. I’m not sure if it was allowing on-court coaching, the compass draw format, the player badges and goody bags, or what, but these kids had a great time and exhibited impeccable sportsmanship. And guess what? We had no officials other than our tournament director . . . nor did we need them!

A huge thank you to everyone involved! To our planning committee – Melanie Rubin (Tennis Parent), David Hirshfeld (Holabird Sports), Randy Jenks (Universal Tennis), and Rob Hubbard (Sam Houston State University Head Coach). To our sponsors – Presenting Sponsor Holabird Sports; Division I Sponsor Wilson Tennis; Division II Sponsors 10sBalls.com, Universal Tennis, Kassimir Physical Therapy, ParentingAces, Judie Schwartz, Rob & Robin Hubbard; Division III Sponsors Melanie Rubin & Family, Ilene Schwartz & Family, Michael Sellman & Family, Jason & Laurie Sklar & Family, Lisa & Matthew Stone & Family; In-Kind Sponsors ArrowBar, Genesis String, Lucy Prendeville, The Bryan Brothers, Steve’s Deli. To the staff at the Suburban Club – Ross Coleman, Jim, Brad, and Eric. To Sol’s family – Ilene Schwartz, Dori Schwartz, Evan Schwartz (thanks for Sol's familythe crabcakes!), Judie Schwartz, Cyndy Schwartz, Steve & Lisa Schwartz, Jake Schwartz, Josh Schwartz, Ina and Jeffrey Legum, Sherri & Gary Kassimir, Ali Kassimir, Laurie & Jason Sklar,  Skylar Sklar, Landon Sklar, and Dari Jo Sklar. To Sol’s friends who came out to support the tournament. And, most of all, to Sol for inspiring us to do better.

Finals match results (Name followed by Universal Tennis Rating):

Wilson-Williams Draw (8-player compass draw)

Kaitlyn Chalker (6.17) def Caroline Askew (5.39) 6-1 6-2

Wilson-Federer Draw (8-player compass draw)

Ramanaidu Kotnana (11.18) def Bear Lee (10.13) 7-5 6-3

Holabird Draw (8-player compass draw)

Tyler Mast (6.59) def Maxim Khurgel (6.46) 6-2 6-4

10sBalls.com Draw (4-player round robin draw)

Dessian Oula (4.00) overall winner

Daniel Polsky (4.00) runner-up

UTR Draw (4-player round robin draw)

Paige Sawyer (2.00) overall winner

Aleyah Abdullah (1.00) runner-up

 

Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament

tounament-logoLately, I’ve posted several opportunities for junior players to get in some tournament play outside of the traditional USTA system: ITA Summer Circuit, Oracle ITA Junior Masters Series, and a variety of money tournaments. None is closer to my heart than the Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament presented by Holabird Sports.

As you may recall, the Tennis World lost one of its biggest advocates this past March when my dear friend, Sol Schwartz, passed away unexpectedly. I was unable to go to his funeral in Baltimore, but I knew I wanted to do something meaningful to honor the memory of my friend. For several weeks I wracked my brain to come up with something. Making a monetary donation wasn’t going to cut it. Neither was setting up a scholarship fund. Sol was all about effecting change through tennis, so I knew that whatever I did needed to be sustainable and impactful. That’s how the Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament idea was born.

Since I’ve never run a real tournament before, I knew I needed help. Lots of help. I reached out to others in the Tennis World who were close to Sol and who had connections to the tournament realm. That’s how our amazing organizing committee came to be: David Hirshfeld (Holabird Sports), Rob Hubbard (UMBC Tennis which has sadly been cut), Randy Jenks (UTR), and Melanie Rubin (Tennis Parent Extraordinaire). We have also consulted with Sol’s family who have been a great help in terms of logo design (thank you to Sol’s niece, Ali!), promotion ideas, and sponsorship.

The tournament is now a reality. It will take place August 20-21, 2016, at The Suburban Club in Pikesville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore where Sol lived with his family. It is open to all junior players age 18 and under. In keeping with Sol’s commitment to making tennis affordable for all, we have kept the entry fee very low at $30 per player.

Here are the particulars:

  • The title sponsor is Holabird Sports
  • 16-draw for boys and 16-draw for girls (it is an open 18-and-under draw)
  • Selection and seeding will be done using UTR
  • Compass draw ensures each player will get 4 matches
  • On-court coaching is allowed at changeovers
  • Each player will receive a print program which will include player photos and bios
  • The winner will receive a one-year clothing and equipment sponsorship from a major tennis manufacturer
  • This event is non-USTA sanctioned but will be included in UTR

My hope is that this event will grow and spread to cities across the US. While I wanted to host this inaugural event on a college campus, we weren’t able to make that happen this year. But, the goal is to have Sol Schwartz tournaments in several cities by next summer, all hosted on college campuses in order to raise awareness about the beauty of college tennis. Ever since I met Sol, his mission was to #SaveCollegeTennis, and I’m hoping these tournaments help achieve that mission. Long-term, we would like to establish a 501(c)3 non-profit so the proceeds from these events can be used in the form of grants to college programs in danger of being discontinued.

Registration is open TODAY through August 14th. Click here to go to the tournament website. For information on sponsorship opportunities, click here or email me at lisa@parentingaces.com.

Hope to see you in Maryland!

Tribute to a Gentle Man

Tourney creator, Sol, with my son
Sol with my son

Yesterday, I received the devastating news that my friend, Sol Schwartz, had died suddenly due to unknown causes. He was 46 years old. He was a husband, a father of two, a son, a brother, an uncle, a coach, a mentor, and a friend.

And here is where I could put on my “Journalist” hat and go through all of Sol’s accomplishments – both personal and professional – while pontificating on a life cut short.

But I can’t go that route. My heart is hurting too badly, and I need to share the Sol I knew and loved. Love.

I first “met” Sol in the way I “meet” so many people these days: via Facebook. He and I were both members of a tennis-themed group and both posted regularly, I about tennis parenting and he about college tennis. I guess it was our passion for the sport that first drew us toward each other. Sol began tuning into my weekly radio shows and calling in to ask questions and share his opinions on a regular basis. Soon, he and I started talking on the phone, discussing what we could each do to improve our sport.

In the spring of 2012, Sol came up with the idea of hosting a non-sanctioned open-age-group tournament with the winner receiving a one-year sponsorship from Adidas. He worked with his employer, Holabird Sports, and his contacts at Adidas to bring the tournament to life. He then invited me and my son to participate. How could we say no? Rather than telling you about our experience here, I urge you to read this piece so you can get a feel for what this tournament meant to my son and the other players.

That Holabird-Adidas tournament was the first time I actually met Sol in person. But when he picked us up at our hotel to take my son for a practice hit, it was like being picked up by an old friend. There was no awkwardness, no moment of hesitation, simply a connection that was already established because of our extensive phone calls and Facebook interactions. This man was genuine and good-hearted and took us into his city and into his home and made us an immediate part of his family.

We spent that weekend with Sol, his wife, his kids, his in-laws, his co-workers, and countless others who had the good luck to be impacted by this gentle man on a regular basis. Our friendship was forever sealed.

Sol became my biggest cheerleader. He would text me encouraging messages and post things like “Rockstar Tennis Mom” on my Facebook page. By that point, I knew what a big heart he had, but it wasn’t until Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern coast of New York that I got a real sense of what his big heart could do.

As soon as he heard about the devastation, especially to the area’s public and private tennis facilities, Sol initiated a fundraising campaign through Holabird to get the local coaches back on their feet. He solicited donations from all his industry contacts for things like cases of balls and hoppers so the coaches could get back to work. He took to social media and posted daily on the various tennis groups asking for donations of time, money, and equipment. He connected with the local USTA office so he could stay on top of their needs. When they asked for something . . . ANYTHING . . . Sol delivered. He was their angel during a time of real crisis.

It was during that crisis that Sol was introduced to Melanie Rubin (Noah’s mom) and decided that she and I needed to meet. He put us in touch with each other, and we became fast friends, talking on the phone at least weekly over the next several months.

When my 50th birthday rolled around a couple of months later – which also happened to be Sol’s 43rd birthday (how could we have NOT been friends when we shared the same birthday?!?!?) – I got a huge package in the mail postmarked from Baltimore. Sol remembered how much I had LOVED the area crabcakes when we were there for the Holabird tournament, so he had a case of them shipped to me. I think it was at that point that my husband truly understood why my son and I had become so close to this sweet man.

A few weeks later Sol called me up and suggested something waaaaay outside the box. He told me I needed to apply for media credentials at the

Sol's caption: At the opening with the ladies of ParentingAces fame #usopen2014 — with Lisa Goodman Stone and Melanie Siegel Rubin.
Sol’s caption: At the opening with the ladies of ParentingAces fame #usopen2014 — with Lisa Goodman Stone and Melanie Siegel Rubin.

upcoming US Open and have Melanie there as my assistant, two Tennis Moms sharing their experience through ParentingAces, me as a spectator and Melanie as the parent of one of the players. Never in a million years did I envision ParentingAces opening THAT door for me, and it NEVER would’ve happened without Sol’s belief and encouragement. That was his gift, though – seeing things in people that they wouldn’t dare dream of seeing in themselves. And it fostered a deep friendship that will live on, only with Sol smiling down from above instead of standing right there beside us.

Throughout the end of my son’s junior tennis years and college recruiting, Sol was there as a sounding board, not just for me but also for my son. He would check in with both of us on a regular basis to see if we needed anything. And periodically we would get little surprises tucked into our Holabird orders – t-shirts, hats, socks –  Sol took care of us on so many levels. He had a sixth sense alerting him to call or text me at precisely the times I needed to hear from him. And his words of encouragement always did the trick.

For my son, Sol acted as a mentor. He would ask the right questions or just listen if that’s what was needed. And my son was but one of many young people who had this type of relationship with Sol. Just ask the kids who play on the UMBC team (which Sol fought so hard to save when it was announced both the men’s and women’s teams would be cut after this year). Or the kids who train at the local indoor courts. Or the kids who come into the Holabird headquarters. Or, I suspect, the kids who play sports with Sol’s own children.

My heart is breaking. For myself, yes, but especially for Sol’s amazing wife, daughter, and son who have to find a way to honor his memory as they continue to live life without their rock. If I know Sol, he will come up with ways of

Sol, Dori, Evan, Ilene
Sol, Dori, Evan, Ilene

encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves, whether appearing in their dreams or on the wind or as a voice in their hearts.

Sol, my friend, I will miss our conversations. I will miss our debates. I will miss my little surprise packages. I will miss your passion for our sport. I will miss you.

I keep picturing you, tennis racquet in your hand, backward cap on your head, fighting the good fight from above. I would tell you to rest peacefully, but I know “rest” isn’t part of your vocabulary. Trust those of us you left behind to continue the good work you have started. It is how we can best honor the man, the gentle man, that is Sol Schwartz.

Heading to the Open

10614198_10152426477683393_8627967001988168052_n

About 18 months ago, Sol Schwartz of Holabird Sports put me in touch with a fellow tennis parent he had recently met, Melanie Rubin. Sol thought Melanie and I would hit it off and wanted us to make contact.

For those of you who have been around ParentingAces a while, you may recognize Melanie’s name. She was a guest on my radio show in April 2013. She also did interviews for me at the 2013 National Hardcourts in Kalamazoo then helped me out at last year’s US Open.

If you’re new to ParentingAces, you may recognize Melanie’s name as the mom of 2014 Wimbledon Junior Champ and 2014 Kalamazoo Champ (and rising freshman at Wake Forest), Noah Rubin.

Well, my friend Melanie is about to see her son live his dream: playing in the main draw at the US Open right in his own backyard! And, I’m going to be there to document the experience from the parent’s side of things. It’s going to be a very exciting 2 weeks in New York, and I hope you’ll follow along with me to see how my amazing Tennis Parent friend fares as her son competes on one of the world’s biggest stages.

I’ll be at the Open starting this Thursday. If you plan to be up there, too, please reach out via text message, email, Twitter, or whatever so we can meet!

I know you all join me in wishing Noah and his momma all the best in his US Open debut! Stay tuned!

 

Comments on “How Will You Handle Things in 2014?”

The comments below on yesterday’s article about managing the 2014 calendar appeared on various Facebook pages/groups that I follow. I wanted to share them because they contain valuable information and some good things to consider.

  • Roy Coopersmith: don’t waste time playing jrs
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: for those who don’t have the talent, opportunity, and/or resources to skip juniors and train directly for the pro tour, though, they need a pathway. how do they create one under this new calendar???
  • Roy Coopersmith: hope and pray basically or have 2d passport?
  • Patrick Barbanes: Lisa, this calender or that calendar, what IS the desired goal of the junior in tournament competing? Seriously curious. I’m supposing there are many possible goals: highest ranking, widest range of opponents (is that one?), eligibility for certain tourneys (but does that relate to ranking), exposure to coaches/colleges….
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: exactly, patrick! not every junior player has the same goal. some are striving for ranking, others to play on their high school team, others to play high-level college tennis, a select few to play professionally. so, you have to look at the calendar, look at your goal, and figure out the best way to get there. i’m just wondering how the coaches here are guiding their players under this new layout . . .
  • Patrick Barbanes: Maddie competes currently just for the fun and intensity that come as part of a tournament versus just ad hoc match play. The quest for the trophy, the thrill of victory the agony of defeat… ‘Course, as you know, she’s only 10.
  • Martyn Collins: Patrick is close to nailing it. At minimum if the various calendars among the sections do not make you ask the questions Patrick raises no particular calendar can be a pathway, you are just playing the matches and hoping for the best.
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: and i suspect her reasons for competing might change as she develops and gets older. so, you have to stay on top of how the calendar is structured to provide her the best opportunity for success, no matter her goal.
  • Roy Coopersmith: cant change it so bottom line is enter the appropriate level you think your kid belongs and hope for the best
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: but, roy, depending on the kid’s ranking, you don’t just get to enter any level tourney you want.
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: and, now, you have to go through your section in order to play nat’l events.
  • Roy Coopersmith: agree so u have to pick chose and hope can’t change it so have to go with appropriate entry allowed
  • Roy Coopersmith: why i don’t see any benefit once someone is good enough or old enough to not play USTA
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: so, based on a kid’s goals and abilities, how would you pick and choose?
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: if a kid wants to attend regular school, USTA jr events are pretty much their only option during the school year.
  • Roy Coopersmith: can still play what u need but must be creative
  • Martyn Collins: as I with my orange ball 8 year old daughter. Her practices will be 10x more intense than her foray into competition this year. The matches are the reward. Different case with the competitive 11 year old. Hard look at that calendar, schedule periodization training, new doubles partner, allow him to set ranking goals, keep teaching.
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: roy, what does that creativity look like specifically?
  • Roy Coopersmith: heck lisa i really can’t describe unless i am in that persons situation and i can show them how i would do it i guess honestly
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: so, put yourself in my shoes for a sec. my son is a junior in high school, age 17, wants to play high-level D1 college tennis (and wants to actually get to PLAY, not just say he’s on the team!).he goes to public school, so ITFs are limited for us. what’s our plan???
  • Martyn Collins: This calendar assumes that when you are 13 years old you have trained and are ready for all out blood thirsty competition. At which point you will win most of your matches or be an unfortunate. Unfortunates will not play any prestigious or big events. This is what the calendar means to me if I bifurcate it between 12 and under (pathway to competition) and 13 and up (competition and competition with honors).
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: interesting interpretation, marty. can’t say i disagree, lol!
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: but the number of unfortunates vs. competitors varies section to section . . .
  • Martyn Collins: Think of the varying like the House of Representatives delegations, just proportional.
  • Tuan Nguyen: Hi why shouldn’t the USTA tournament system be a meritocracy? This is how ITF tournaments are set up – if you are not good enough, you will never play the grade 1s and the jr slams. The 2014 changes will bring the best players together for competition and will weed out the “unfortunates”
  • Martyn Collins: Lisa, he needs to regularly beat the Top 3 seeds where ever he plays starting now. This is the only pathway I see to the goals you have elucidated. That is my hard truth versus any soft lie that I would not tell you.
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: oh, i know, marty, for sure. but which tournaments does he play and how often and what about mixing in ITFs and Futures events when he can?
  • Martyn Collins: This year? Forget ITF and futures, start shooting and leaving bodies locally NOW! If accomplished, then hunt for something else.
  • Tuan Nguyen: Lisa- I have a daughter on a full ride scholarship. What is important to D1 coaches is that the player can compete and play proper tennis in tournament matches. If my daughter is 17 and time is short, I will contact the schools that she want and let the coaches see her play in real tournaments matches. I probably will put her in the highest level USTA tournaments that she is qualify to play so she can face the toughest competition given her current level.
  • Roy Coopersmith: I agree with Tuan. number one thing is too many people, parents and kids are caught up thinking they have to play tournaments. tournament r secondary to training and the l quality of the game. if it’s for college the coaches will see their game. it’s not about how many stars or blue-chip or ranking. a coach is smart enough to know what type player (or nationality)they need. if you’re going to be Pro train train train- junior tournaments are going to waste your time and money. Pick and chose a right quality of tourneys. I won’t argue with anyone about it because i know better from my wife from Niki and from making others
  • Don Petrine: 1/250,000 kids makes it to top 100 atp/wta. Tournaments are also a positive life experience or can/should be for kids. Many of us on this site are still friends decades later because we played tournaments and competed against each other. If you are sure your kid will make it then no need for a plan b. Tournaments vs no tournaments is like school or home school. It may be good for a select few but most kids should go to school. Most kids should play tournaments. For some it may seem like a waste of time but for most people tournaments are good training and a valuable life experience.
  • Roy Coopersmith: When Usta reduces draws, cuts tournaments what would you suggest don?
  • Bunny Bruning: how do I get the kids to be seen by the college coaches
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: video is certainly one way, bunny . . .
  • Roy Coopersmith: Video is like a business card
  • Bunny Bruning: I would rather they see them in tournaments for a few games
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: for sure, that’s preferred, but it doesn’t always work out for the kid to play the tourney the coach is attending or vice-versa. that said, having the kid email the coach to let him/her know his/her upcoming schedule is a great way to start the ball rolling.
  • Martyn Collins: You can play tourneys. See winners and unfortunate comment. You could go Coopersmith route and prove it when you do compete or you can gamble – train a lot and bank on winning when you do play USTA and if you play USTA this way your TRN SOS better be off the charts if you want D1 to pay attention to the results.
  • Roy Coopersmith: martyn, you are right there man, you are definitely finding the ways and there are several to find and it all comes down to couple things like pocketbook, skill, how much travel you feel is needed or wanted, you got it for sure
  • Roy Coopersmith: in usta it is always same kids cuz others cant break in and my philosophy is to break out not break in
  • Don Petrine: A kid is not going to get a scholarship based on a video. Perhaps get on a coaches preferred admissions list at an elite academic school. Coaches want to know how a junior competes not just if they have a great looking game. Good college coaches track a juniors career from as early as second yr 14s to see how they compete with their peers. Whether they are gaining or losing motivation as they navigate the treacherous waters of junior competition. Is a kid on the rise or burning out? A cursory look or interview will not always answer these questions. Hense a body of competitive history helps.
  • Roy Coopersmith: too easy to edit videos
  • Martyn Collins: Billy Martin told me point blank he is only recruiting among the Top 5 or 10 kids in the nation each year. i assume every D1 has similar criteria that filters down no more than Top 90.
  • Martyn Collins: Find a kid outside top 90 with full ride at D1. More and more I am convinced they do not exist. All those kids making commitments on TRN are paying.
  • Karl Rosenstock: I will say the opportunities for girls to play college team tennis are much greater than for boys, Title IX and all…
  • Lisa Goodman Stone: it’s tough to find any kids with a full ride these days, especially on the men’s side . . . sad but true!
  • Roy Coopersmith: better question is when do jrs. start foregoing too much education in lieu of enough court time, fitness time, weight training time, mental training time, conditioning time oh and tournaments as well?
  • Martyn Collins: 7th or 8th grade. Plan is to stay public but get PE credit for additional academic elective. Explore independent study depending on circumstances starting in 9th grade. Starting to see top NorCal 12s opting for home school.
  • Robert Hubbard: Marty’s assumption is a bit flawed because of so many variables that are overlooked……..UCLA can approach it that way because…they can. Mid majors have to exhaust all avenues looking under every rock (so to speak) for diamonds in the rough, kids flying under the radar. and of course the inevitable international pool since the “top American kids” can be difficult to recruit………majors, mid majors, fully funded programs, not fully funded, operational budgets play into these decisions
  • Martyn Collins: we have a kid (son of a Top 6 player) who will probably get a long look, even though he is a late bloomer by choice.
  • Sol Schwartz: That is where some of these kids will lose out by limiting exposure at the larger national events. We would all agree that what you can witness in person is a lot different than what you can learn on video. Many different intangibles. Now the coaches are left with little choice in the matter. Their budgets will not allow them to go to smaller sectional events to watch a recruit who they otherwise would have seen at one of the larger events. Now the American kids are put on equal footing with the internationals to an extent. Video against video, who looks better? It’s a crap shoot now.
  • Don Petrine: College coaches do not go to Jr tournaments in the US as much as they used to. Kalamazoo, Clays, Org Bowl and occasionally a sectional. Coaches have a much broader international recruiting base. The kids out of the top 50 nationally nust hire a PR specialist and sell themselves.
  • Julie Thiets: oops-here’s one for ya: when we first started our business, one of our customers was #1 B18 in South (I didn’t even know what that meant at the time, lol). He got full-ride to UNC…and sat on the bench, then had several surgeries, not sure he ever played or not much. Now I share that story with players who have delusions of playing D1 tennis but lack a fraction of the skills that our customer had. It comes as a shock to many/most. Just an observation…And when it comes to video, TOTALLY AGREE that videos don’t guarantee scholarships — but if player is NOT top blue chip, 5-star or whatever, they need to promote themselves & get on the coach’s radar…THAT is where a good recruit video is priceless — but also TOTALLY AGREE that most of the videos out there are laughable & embarrassing—aside from ours, of course–LOL