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Florida Coach Honored by USOC

February 5, 2009 10:18 AM

The USTA announced today that four members of the tennis community were honored with national awards as part of the USOC Coaching Recognition Program.  Manuel Diaz of Athens, Ga., head coach of the University of Georgia’s men’s tennis team was named the 2008 USOC National Coach of the Year for Tennis, Frank Salazar of Chevy Chase, Md., Director of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., was named USOC Developmental Coach of the Year for Tennis, and Rita Gladstone of Port Orange, Fla., was named USOC Volunteer Coach of the Year for Tennis.  All three become nominee for the USOC’s national award in the respective categories.  In addition, the USTA nominated Anne Smith, Ph.D. of Dallas, for the “Doc” Counsilman Science Award for her contributions in the areas of sports psychology and mental training.

Diaz is currently in his 21st year as the head men’s tennis coach at the University of Georgia, and has led the Bulldogs to four NCAA championships, including its second consecutive title in 2008.  The team has reached the NCAA final on seven other occasions under Diaz.  He has also led his team to 12 SEC regular season titles and seven SEC Tournament titles, and owns a career winning percentage of .828 (463–96) entering the 2009 season.  Diaz is a three-time winner of the Wilson/ITA National Coach of the Year award, and has coached 27 All-Americans, including four-time All-American John Isner, currently ranked No. 139 on the ATP World Tour.

As coach of one of the USTA’s two new certified regional training centers, Salazar supervises the development of a number of up and coming Americans in the Washington, D.C., area.  Of the players Salazar coached in 2008, Denis Kudla had the strongest season, reaching a career-high No. 10 in the ITF World Junior Rankings after sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the South Carolina ITF event in October and reaching the final at the ITF Coffee Bowl, a Grade 1 event. 

Rita teaches a child QuickStart Tennis during
her JTT league in Volusia County

Additionally, Kudla won the boys’ 16s title at the Dunlop Orange Bowl, and was a leading member of the United States’ title-winning Junior Davis Cup team.  He also reached the semifinals at the USTA Pro Circuit Futures in Rochester, N.Y., just his second pro event.   Two of his other students are also in the top-100 of the ITF World Junior Rankings.

Gladstone currently serves as the Area League Coordinator for Volusia County, Fla., and in 2008 over 550 kids participated in Junior Team Tennis leagues which she coordinated.  Additionally, she gave lessons to over 100 new tennis players in 2008, utilizing the USTA’s QuickStart program to help these students learn the game with age-appropriate equipment.  She also partners with local schools to provide free after-school programs for both students and teachers, and regularly acts as a guest teacher for physical education classes.  Gladstone was a former No. 1 player at the University of South Carolina, and had a brief stint on the WTA Tour.

Smith, who holds a doctorate in educational psychology, works with tennis players of all levels throughout the Dallas area and uses a unique mental training regimen to help her students reach their potential.  A former world No. 1 doubles player, Smith won 10 grand slam championships in women’s doubles and mixed doubles from 1980-1984.  She calls on her experiences to provide evidence to her students about the rigors of competitive tennis and the importance of utilizing mental training. 






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