#theSol Baltimore

#theSolIt has taken me a few days to write this article because, honestly, I just haven’t been able to find the words to describe this past weekend in Baltimore at the 2017 #theSol.

I won’t go into my history with Sol Schwartz – you can read this article if you’re curious – but this tournament is about so much more than junior tennis or college tennis or anything having to do with hitting a yellow ball over a net. It is about honoring the legacy of a man who truly loved the game . . . LOVED the game . . . and devoted his adult life to fighting for its survival and the survival of its traditions.

That’s why #theSol participants play 2 out of 3 full sets. That’s why they play regular scoring (none of that no-ad stuff that makes me crazy). That’s why we empower the players with their own matches, trusting them to play by the rules and to exhibit impeccable sportsmanship without interference from officials. That’s why we encourage on-court coaching at side changes, helping players learn from each game and each match. That’s why we solicit quality sponsors and use the money (instead of charging high entry fees) to create the highest-quality tournament experience we can, providing goody bags filled with fun and useful items, creating a full-color Player Book (thank you to Sol’s niece, Ali, for the beautiful design!), serving lunch and drinks to players and parents, using the net proceeds to #SaveCollegeTennis through grants.

While last year’s Baltimore event found all of us who were close to Sol still feeling pretty raw – he had just passed away 5 months earlier – this year’s event felt more like a true celebration of his life. Sol’s wife, Ilene, did a great job of encouraging Sol’s friends and family to come out to watch the juniors and college kids compete, and, I swear, we had more fans in attendance than at many pro tournaments! I met people who had known Sol since childhood or who had played against him in the juniors or who had been coached by him or who had done business with him at Holabird Sports. The man knew everyone even remotely related to tennis in the mid-Atlantic section!

Now the details . . .

theSolWe wound up with 50 players ranging in age from 9 to 22 and ranging in UTR level from 1.0 (first tournament ever) to 9.85. Players came from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Tournament Director Scott Thornton divided them into 7 flights, some playing a round-robin format and others playing a compass draw, ensuring that everyone played 3 matches. Prizes were awarded based on the percentage of games won so that everyone had a chance at the awesome Wilson Prize Package and the 2-month Tennis Trunk subscription as well as other prizes donated by Solinco and the Bryan Brothers.

As I mentioned, the tournament provided lunch for the players and their families theSoleach day. During lunch on Day 1, NextGen star Noah Rubin joined us via FaceTime to chat with the players and answer their questions. He was prepping for his week at the Vancouver Challenger in Canada, so it was especially sweet of him to take some time to interact with us!

theSol
Richard Herskovitz & Ilene Schwartz

During lunch on Day 2, I got the opportunity to hit a little with Standing Adaptive player Richard Herskovitz, a long-time friend of Sol’s who came out to support our tournament. He definitely put me through my paces on the Har-Tru courts! When we found out that one of our final-round players needed to withdraw, Richard graciously stepped in and played against one of our juniors, ensuring that she got her 3rd match for the tournament.

Thanks to their generosity and connection to Sol and his family, we had two photographers on site documenting the weekend. If you’d like to see and/or order any of the photos, click here. The net proceeds will go into our grant fund. There are more photos available to purchase here.

But, enough from me! I want you to hear from the players and parents themselves!

Allen Au, whose 3 sons all played in this year’s tournament, posted on our Facebook page at the end of Day 1. “Awesome First day…. Best junior event I have been to ever.. Everyone was nice and played tennis in the spirit of competition.” What a wonderful testament to the heart of this tournament!

Juan Borga’s 17-year-old daughter, Ana, also played in the tournament. Her older brother, Juan, was supposed to play as well, but unfortunately he injured himself on the practice court a few days beforehand. Here’s Juan Sr’s take on #theSol:

For Tiffany Livingstone’s daughter, Alexa, playing in a tennis tournament was something she had wanted to try but really didn’t know how to go about getting started. Because of their personal connection to Sol’s wife, Ilene, Tiffany signed Alexa up for #theSol this year, and she had a wonderful first tournament experience:

And now hear from two of our players, Anya and Julianne, about their experience:

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the incredible support theSolof our Presenting Sponsor 10sBalls.com; Title Sponsor Holabird Sports; Division I Sponsor Wilson Tennis; Division II Sponsors Kassimir Physical Therapy, Judie Schwartz, and Steven J. Schwartz, MD; Division III Sponsors Maller Wealth Advisors, Match!Tennis App, ParentingAces, Universal Tennis Academy, and UTR; Lunch Sponsors Michael Sellman and the Schwartz Family; Ball Sponsor Jewish Community Center of Baltimore; and In-Kind Sponsors The Bryan Brothers, Crown Trophy, David Brooks, Dunlop, Melanie Rubin, PNC Bank, Solinco, The Suburban Club, Marc Summerfield, Summit Group, Tennis Trunk, TournaGrip, Utz Chips, and Voss Water.

If you would like to get involved in either the Atlanta or Baltimore #theSol tournaments in 2018, please reach out to me via email (lisa@parentingaces.com) or in the Comments below. If you would like to make a donation to our grant fund to #SaveCollegeTennis, you can do so via Venmo or by mailing a check payable to The Sol – just email me for details. Your donation may be tax deductible.

Thank you to everyone who played, donated, volunteered, or came out to support the event! I look forward to seeing y’all again next year!

Day 1 at #theSol Atlanta

#theSolThe weather was perfect (well, a bit warm, but what else is new in July in Atlanta?). The Georgia Gwinnett College courts were newly-refurbished. The players were ready to do battle. A wonderful start to the first #theSol Atlanta tournament brought to you by 10sballs.com and Holabird Sports!

Tournament Director, David Stolle, did a fantastic job of dividing our 24 players into draws that suited their UTR, ensuring the most competitive matches we could hope for in the first two rounds. We wound up with 4 draws: a 4-person round robin draw for the top UTR players (Red Draw), an 8-person compass draw for the next level (White Draw), a 4-person round robin draw for our 3rd group (Blue Draw), and an 8-person compass draw for least-experienced players (Green Draw). Since the players were promised a minimum of 3 matches, most draws played 2 rounds today, though we did have one last-minute withdrawal due to injury and one due to illness which means that our Red Draw and Blue Draw players are only getting 2 matches unfortunately.

One of the coolest things about our tournament is the way the UTRs fell. We wound up with girls and boys competing against one another as well as young junior players competing against college players. What a great experience for these kids!

We also made the executive decision to NOT have officials at this event. Now, with all the discussion around cheating and bad behavior at junior tournaments, you would think this would be a recipe for disaster. Quite the contrary! Every single one of the matches was played without conflict! I gave a little talk at the beginning of the day regarding our expectations. I told the players (and the parents) that we were trusting them to be on their best behavior, to show respect for their opponents, to play fairly and by the rules, and to show respect for my dear friend, Sol. These kids did not disappoint! There were no disputed calls, no racket throwing, no accusations – only fair play with courtesy and exemplary sportsmanship. I was so proud of each and every one of these players!

Click here to view the Day 1 Slideshow

Tomorrow is our final day, and we have some fun things planned. Melanie Oudin will make a personal appearance to meet the kids, sign autographs, and take photos. We have some great gifts from our sponsors which we will give away. We’ll once again provide lunch for the players. And we’ll have a professional photographer on hand to capture all the special moments of the day.

I’m looking forward to seeing these kids compete with heart and joy, just as Sol would’ve wanted. If you’re in the Atlanta area, come on out to Georgia Gwinnett College and join us for another great day of tennis! Matches start at 10am with the last matches scheduled to go on court at 1:30pm.

One last thing . . . a TREMENDOUS thank you to all our sponsors – we couldn’t put on such a great event without them!

  • 10sBalls.com
  • Holabird Sports
  • Steven J Schwartz, MD and the Intensivist Team
  • Judie Schwartz
  • Kassimir Physical Therapy
  • Match! Tennis App
  • Universal Tennis Academy
  • ParentingAces
  • UTR
  • Maller Wealth Advisors
  • Michael Sellman
  • Ilene, Dori, & Evan Schwartz
  • Solinco
  • Dunlop
  • Tennis Trunk
  • Melanie Rubin
  • Voss
  • TournaGrip
  • PNC Bank
  • Summit Group

Day 1 Results

Red Draw (Round Robin)
Gavin Segraves (12.20) d. Luis de la Mano (UTR unknown) 6-0 6-0

White Draw (Compass)
Round 1:
Eli Hagan (8.40) d. Kelli Osajima (9.12) 6-2 6-2
Brenna Reilly (8.50) d. Samantha Birger (6.55) 6-0 6-1
Jake Young (8.43) d. Kiran Gadde (6.24) 6-3 6-1
Taylor Galloway (8.55) d. Jonathan Molner (6.94) 6-2 7-5

Round 2:
Eli Hagan (8.40) d. Brenna Reilly (8.50) 6-3 6-2
Jake Young (8.43) d. Taylor Galloway (8.55) 6-3 7-5
Kelli Osajima (9.12) d. Samantha Birger (6.55) 6-1 6-0
Jonathan Molner (6.94) d. Kiran Gadde (6.24) 6-2 6-2

Blue Draw (Round Robin)
Brent Nieri (5.20) d. Grayson Balloon (5.69) df
Peyton Schuchart (5.94) d. Raines Grassi (5.55) 6-0 6-2
Peyton Shuchart (5.94) d. Brent Nieri (5.20) 6-1 6-1
Raines Grassi (5.55) d. Grayson Balloon (5.69) df

Green Draw (Compass)
Round 1:
McKenzie Oliver (4.71) d. Sydney Balcom (3.80) 6-3 6-3
Matthew Pinto (4.41) d. Chloe Zigliara (3.11) 6-4 6-2
Teja Gadde (4.26) d. Christopher Pinto (3.0)  6-0 6-7 (4) 7-6 (4)
Shek Berry (4.55) d. Clara Balcom (3.58) 6-1 6-2

Round 2:
McKenzie Oliver (4.71) d. Matthew Pinto (4.41) 6-4 6-3
Shek Berry (4.55) d. Teja Gadde (4.26) 6-4 6-0
Chloe Zigliara (3.11) d. Sydney Balcom (3.80) 6-4 6-4
Clara Balcom (3.58) d. Christopher Pinto (3.0) 7-5 6-1

Day 2 Schedule of Play

10am
Cole Brainard (10.97) v. Gavin Segraves (12.20)
Kelli Osajima (9.12) v. Jonathan Molner (6.94)
Brenna Reilly (8.50) v. Taylor Galloway (8.55)
Samantha Birger (6.55) v. Kiran Gadde (6.24)
Chloe Zigliara (3.11) v. Clara Balcom (3.58)
McKenzie Oliver (4.71) v. Shek Berry (4.55)
Sydney Balcom (3.80) v. Christopher Pinto (3.00)
Teja Gadde (4.26) v. Matthew Pinto (4.41)

1:00pm
Eli Hagan (8.40) v. Jake Young (8.43)
Brent Nieri (5.20) v. Raines Grassi (5.55)
Peyton Schuchart (5.94) d. Grayson Balloon (5.69) df

1:30pm
Luis de la Mano (UTR unknown) v. Cole Brainard (10.97)

 

The Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All-In Tournament

Sol Schwartz

Listen to this week’s podcast here:

My dear friend, Sol Schwartz, passed away suddenly in March 2016, and a group of us decided to honor his legacy and try to continue his life’s work by creating a very special junior tennis tournament. The inaugural tournament was held in Sol’s hometown of Baltimore in August of 2016. This year, we are excited to expand the tournament to two cities: Atlanta July 17-19 and Baltimore August 12-13.

In this week’s podcast, we hear from others affiliated with the tournament as well as from Sol’s wife, Ilene. My hope is that you’ll feel compelled to sign your junior players up for these tournaments after hearing from them! After all, in what other junior tennis tournament is your child guaranteed 3 matches all for the low cost of $15 per day?

A huge thank you to the tournament sponsors:

10sballs.com
Holabird Sports
The Intensivist Team
Kassimir Physical Therapy
Match Tennis App
Maller Wealth Advisors
Solinco
Dunlop
Tennis Trunk
Universal Tennis Rating
Universal Tennis Academy
Voss Water
Melanie Rubin
Michael Sellman
Ilene, Dori, and Evan Schwartz

For more information on the tournaments, you can visit the following links:
#theSol Atlanta: http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/261/
#theSol Baltimore: http://events.universaltennis.com/tournaments/336/
More info on this year’s tournaments: http://parentingaces.com/thesol-year-2/
Info on last year’s tourney: http://parentingaces.com/sol-schwartz-savecollegetennis-all-in-tournament/
Info on Sol: http://parentingaces.com/tribute-to-a-gentle-man/

Check out our latest podcast!

 

#theSol Year 2

#theSol

It’s hard to believe that almost a whole year has gone by since our inaugural Sol Schwartz #SaveCollegeTennis All In Tournament. Last year’s event (click here to read all about it) was a tremendous success by all measures, and we hope to do even better this year.

As in 2016, this year’s #theSols will be run through the Universal Tennis Rating tournament platform which gives our tournament directors great flexibility in terms of scheduling, communication, and draws. Unlike last year, we are hosting TWO events in 2017, one in Atlanta July 17-19 and one in Baltimore August 12-13. A huge thank-you to our presenting sponsor, 10sballs.com, and our title sponsor, Holabird Sports! Registration is now open for both tournaments. Click here for Atlanta. Click here for Baltimore.

Why should you add these tournaments to your junior player’s summer schedule? Well, let me tell you why!

  1. This is like no other junior tournament your child will play!
  2. Players are guaranteed at least 3 matches.
  3. On-court coaching. Players can receive assistance during the side changes.
  4. Where else can your child play matches that will count toward their UTR plus be coached on court during side changes?
  5. And, speaking of UTR, all matches will count toward your child’s rating.
  6. Players will get an amazing player goody bag and we have an incredible prize package for the overall winner.
  7. Players will have official player credentials.#theSol credential
  8. Players will get a full-color player book.
  9. Complimentary lunch for players and parents.
  10. Full-color high quality dri-fit tournament shirts.

I heard from the coach of last year’s #theSol winner that it was the best tournament she’s ever played. Not just because she won it, but also because of the atmosphere created by our incredible volunteers and committee. Don’t you want your junior player to have this type of positive tournament experience?

NOTE: We’ve just added another great perk to this year’s tournaments! We will be using the Match Tennis App for all tournament updates and communications. Why should you care? Because that means that, once you register to play, you get a FREE 30-day trial of the app! For more information on the Match Tennis App (plus a nice discount to use after your trial expires!), listen to our podcast here.

Enter the Atlanta #theSol here
Enter the Baltimore #theSol here

In case you’re wondering why we’re going to all this trouble to put on junior tournaments, it’s because of Sol Schwartz and the legacy he left behind in the Tennis World. He was a man devoted to preserving the sanctity of the sport, especially when it came to college tennis. The tournament committee is committed to continuing Sol’s legacy. All of the net proceeds from these events are going into a non-profit fund that will eventually be used to provide grants to college tennis programs at risk of being cut. For reference, from 2010-2015 twenty-two (22) men’s programs were cut with an additional nineteen (19) women’s programs. That does not bode well for the future of our sport.

NOTE: Per data from the ITA, four (4) men’s tennis programs were dropped during the 2016-17 academic year, and five (5) women’s programs were dropped. At the same time, five (5) men’s and four (4) women’s tennis programs were added. For more information, see the document below.

I hope to see you in Atlanta or Baltimore or both (!) this summer! If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to email me at lisa@parentingaces.com.

We all have to band together to #SaveCollegeTennis!

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