The Long Island and New York Tennis Community lost one of its pillars, as Howie Arons passed away at the age of 67 in mid-October.
Howie Arons of the New York Tennis Academy at Great Neck Estates had been a fixture in the Long Island and New York tennis communities for the last four decades.
Arons spent the bulk of his life in the New York tennis community, beginning in 1976 when he took over as the head coach of the Cardozo Boys Tennis program.
“I started as an English teacher, and I ultimately became dean of the school, which is one of the best high schools in New York City. I took the job as a teacher, and I got lucky that they happened to need a tennis coach,” said Arons. “I was at Cardozo at a time when tennis in the Queens area was off the charts.”
At the USTA Eastern Long Island Region Awards Dinner in 2015, he received one of the highest honors given out in the New York tennis community: The Vitas Gerulaitis “For the Love of Tennis” Award.
Considering Arons’ time and dedication to growing tennis in our region, the award was well-deserved and something that meant a lot to Arons.
“The one thing about Vitas that made him special was his enthusiasm for life,” said Arons. “He brought intensity, as well as laughter and all kinds of things to the tennis court. The award is definitely inspiring and I am proud to receive it.”
Arons was as enthusiastic as anyone when it came to tennis and teaching tennis, and anyone who came into contact with him over the years will echo that sentiment.
He retired from Cardozo in 2012 after 36 years, and continued running the program at Great Neck Estates, leaving some big shoes to be filled.
“I knew Howie for 22 years after we met at a tournament on Long Island. A year after that, I started working with him at Alley Pond, and have been working for him for the last 15 years,” said Marvin Jeffrey, a teaching pro at Great Neck Estates. “I’ve learned to always put the kids first. He always pushed them to want to be better and to get the most out of their potential. And that is something he has instilled in all his coaches here.”
The Great Neck Estates programs will be taken over by Brian Stein and Chris Tasso, two men who knew Arons for years, and have learned so much for Arons during their time with him.
“We really have learned how to nurture players from him. He is such a motivator and helps everyone to keep getting better,” said Stein. “He showed so much pride in wanting to advance the love of the game for the people who play here and work here, and wanted to share that with everybody. It’s our job to just continue that legacy.”
Stein knew Arons for 30 years and their relationship began when Stein’s aunt began taking lessons from Arons, and started to bring him down to the courts. Stein would go on to play for Arons at Cardozo, and after all those years, their relationship transformed from player-coach, to boss-employee and even business partners, but one thing always remained: friendship.
“He was never just a coach or a boss-type figure. He was always been more of a friend,” said Stein. “I knew him as a teacher in high school, and the love of the game he instilled in me helped me as I got through college. In my early 20s, he offered me a job to teach part-time, and I took him up on it.
From then until now, he has been more than just a friend, but also a mentor.”
The program at Great Neck Estates is in good hands with Stein and Tasso, who will use what they have learned from Howie to continue growing the program.
“I’ve known Howie for six years and it’s been a great six years. I started off just teaching a couple of hours and then he continued to give me more, and always gave me the chance to grow,” said Tasso. “He has an ability to find coaches and pros with energy and enthusiasm to want to teach, not just ones who know how to coach.
I never really felt like I was truly working when I was working for Howie. He trusted us as coaches and always said the coaches were the business; without them he wouldn’t have a program.”
Arons will be missed by all, but his impact lives on, as his former students and pupils will continue his legacy at Great Neck Estates, and all who came in contact with him throughout the Long Island and New York tennis communities are better people for knowing him.