The following is the acceptance speech from Nancy McShea from the recent USAT/Long Island 19th Annual Awards Dinner, held at the Crest Hollow Country Club. Nancy was honored by USTA/Long Island with the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award for dedication and service to the Long Island Tennis community. The award is presented in honor of Hy Zausner, who passed away on 1992 and founded the Port Washington Tennis Academy in 1965, a facility that saw players such as John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis pass through its doors. Long Island Tennis Magazine would like to congratulate Nancy and the rest of the award winners on their accomplishments, recognition and dedication to growing the sport of tennis on Long Island.
Thank you for this honor. Tennis is fascinating because, to me, the game is really a study of people … of trying to figure out what makes them unique. I’ve resigned a few times from the stress of meeting constant deadlines and dealing with competitive people, but it’s been my privilege to try and give the reader some insight into the Who’s Who of Eastern tennis, especially on Long Island.
Kids evolve in the game through the standard progression of skill levels. I evolved through the adult progression in Long Island’s grassroots. I grew up in Long Beach, N.Y., playing baseball and basketball, but my husband, Jerry, took me to Forest Hills in the 1960s and we played tennis in local parks. In the early 1970s, I coached in Rockville Centre’s Junior Team Tennis program and later ferried my daughter Colette around the Island to junior tournaments.
Colette trained with Danny Dwyer at Point Set (where I first played indoor tennis), Viorel Marcu at the Port Washington Tennis Academy, Mark Harrison and Bruce Funk (who said I rushed the net like a freight train) at Rockville Racquet, Lawrence Kleger at Cedarhurst (who loved the term “babying out”), Walter Staritsky at Hempstead Indoor, Louis Vallejo and the late Stu Becker at Baldwin and Tower Tennis. Colette played tournaments at Carefree, where I twice watched McEnroe and Connors play the U.S. Open semis on television and Colette won her first tournament title. I once ran onto the court at Jericho Westbury to tell Colette and her opponent to start over ‘cause the score was wrong and the other parent yelled at me.
The pros we knew taught future world-class players during the 1970s-80s tennis boom, and we observed them in action. Eastern’s top juniors played at Lawrence’s summer camp in Cedarhurst. We had front row seats to watch Borg practice with Viorel at Port Washington, to see Tracy Austin beat Pam Shriver in the Winter Classic girl’s 14 final and nine-year-old Jennifer Capriati win the Rolex girl’s 12 event with her Cabbage Patch Doll in tow.
I had taught 9th grade English in Long Beach during the 1960s, and returned to teaching in 1977 at St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, N.Y. I also coached the tennis team there during Long Island’s tennis heyday. By 1977, Sandy Mayer of Woodmere and Vitas Gerulaitis of Howard Beach had already won in doubles at Wimbledon. In ’77, Gerulaitis won the Australian and Italian Open singles crowns and ranked third in the U.S., while Dick Stockton of Garden City ranked fifth. Mary Carillo and John McEnroe of Douglaston won the ‘77 French mixed title and McEnroe was a surprise semifinalist at Wimbledon. It was awesome. We watched McEnroe play the U.S. Open at Forest Hills that summer. It was cool that he was a New Yorker. Our St. Mary’s team once defeated St. Francis Prep at the national tennis center to win the Catholic League Championship. Thom Doshna coached Prep and Scott Aitchison was my assistant coach. Kids from both teams lived in Douglaston, including Gina Carillo, who played for us, and Prep’s Erin Callan, recently the chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers, whom the media labeled the most powerful woman on Wall Street.
In 1984, World Tennis magazine bought an article I wrote about the perils of junior tennis. During the U.S. Open that summer, I discussed the issue on ABC’s Nightline with Ted Koppel, Nick Bollettieri and a psychologist. Then I began writing Eastern news stories in magazines and created the first full-sized yearbook. I earned $100 a week. In my first major story in Tennis USA magazine, I featured the junior class of 1985, focused on future touring pros Jennifer Fuchs (Dix Hills) and John Sullivan (Rockville Centre) and their Long Island mentors: Dwyer, Kleger, Gene Mayer, Robbie Wagner, Dick Zausner and the late Madeline Fischbach. I spotlighted the junior careers of Sandra Birch (Huntington Bay), a singles finalist at the junior Open and later a two-time NCAA singles champ at Stanford; and Georgia star Chris Garner (Bay Shore), a star at Georgia who reached the Australian round of 16.
The stories of Long Island touring pros are intriguing. Think Paul Annacone (East Hampton and Tennessee and a U.S. Open doubles finalist), Bea Bielik (Valley Stream, 3rd round US Open), Molly Van Nostrand (Brightwaters, Wimbledon quarterfinalist), Carol Watson (St. Albans, USTA national coach), Larry Scott and Scott Lipsky (Merrick, Harvard and Stanford All-American and both New York State high school champs), Hemel Meghani Cosme (Forest Hills, now managing Alley Pond). Some junior/collegiate standouts were: Kerri Reiter (Woodbury, Easter Bowl champ, ranked 1st in the country), Keith Kambourian (Manhasset, Duke standout), Randy Vigmostad (Greenlawn, Arizona), Robin Deitch (East Rockaway, whose father called me one night at 11:00 p.m. to tell me I stated incorrectly that she had lost a high school match), Ricky Becker (Roslyn, U.S. Open juniors and quarterfinalist and Stanford All-American), and college champs Cory Parr (Jericho, Wake Forest) and Bryan Koniecko (Westbury, Ohio State).
I’ve also met hundreds of terrific Long Island volunteers, among them, Lois Prince, Kathy Miller, Roberta Feldman, Perry Aitchison and Dick Zausner, who always liked the kids.
At our 40th wedding anniversary, our son Jeremy pointed to a picture of me and said to the guests, “Here’s my mother before she stressed out over 25 years of tennis deadlines.” That would include over 2,000 magazine feature stories and news articles.