Next month, USTA Eastern’s Annual Tennis Conference will return to an in-person event. The Conference is highlighted by the annual Awards Ceremony, and this year, several Long Islanders will be honored.
High School Coach of the Year: Shai Fisher
Fisher is the longtime coach of the Syosset High School boys’ and girls’ tennis teams. Under his guidance, the boys’ team won the Nassau County & Long Island Team Championships in 2021, 2018 and 2017 (in 2017, they won the Executive Cup – sponsored by the USTA Long Island Region) and won the Nassau County championship in 2016 and 1015. The 2021 girls’ team won the Long Island Championship and finished as the runner-up in the first-ever New York State Team Championship. Fisher’s girls’ teams also won the 2020 and 2018 Nassau County Team Championships.
Fisher has coached several Nassau County Champions: Brian Gao & Jeremy Levine (2021 Doubles); Kabir Rajpal (2019 Singles and NYS singles runner-up); Eli Grossman & Preet Rajpal ( 2018 and 2017 Doubles); Neel Rajesh & Kabir Rajpal (2016 Doubles), and Dylan Granat & Daniel Shleimovich (2015 Doubles).
Since 2011, he also has been Coordinator of Section VIII (Nassau County) Girls Tennis. His many other accomplishments include overseeing the changing of the Nassau County team playoff format from a Conference 1 (top ability only) format to a 16-team tournament draw (including Conferences 2A, 2B, 3A & 3B). In addition, he has worked with his players to help them coordinate many charitable and community programs over the years.
Courage Award: Jason Pasion
Pasion was the head tennis coach at Hofstra University prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When everything shut down in March 2020, he decided to put his physician’s assistant degree to use and went into hospitals to volunteer. Speaking of his decision, Pasion said:
“First, we learned at Hofstra that they were ending our spring season. And then I was hearing on the news that there’s a shortage of health care workers, so it got me really thinking: ‘I’ve got this degree and I can do something with it, and this is probably where I’m needed the most right now.’ I still keep in touch with a lot of my classmates from PA school, and they all work at hospitals and private practices. So I reached out to a few people that I went to school with and decided that I would volunteer at a few hospitals.”
Pasion's history in the medical field dates back over 20 years. He was working as an EMT on 9/11 and ended up at Ground Zero to support firefighters within hours of the towers falling. He was there for three days straight. As he recalls, he had no cell phone service and his parents had no way to contact him for those three days. They didn’t know if he was okay until he finally was able to return home.
This past July, Pasion resigned as Hofstra coach in part to return to the medical field. He said volunteering made him realize he wanted to return to health care. So as not to completely leave the world of tennis, he accepted a position at Sportime Lynbrook to stay involved in the sport.
Family of the Year: The Pursoo Family
Ariana Pursoo and her family were named the Family of the Year by USTA Eastern
Eugene Pursoo was born on the island of Grenada; he came to New York and attended college at Fordham University. He went on to have four children who would excel in various sports including basketball and tennis. Eugene became highly engaged with tennis when his granddaughters first started to play. The first grandchild, Ariana Pursoo, was introduced to the game with his help and Eugene made the sacrifices needed to get her on court. With the support of her grandfather, Ariana has become a world class junior and one of the best in the country. As Eugene became more involved with helping his granddaughters be successful tennis players, his attention has also shifted to his two younger granddaughters, Gabby and Ashley, who are competitive players in the 12U age division. Eugene continues to impact on the tennis community by coaching at the Lu-Hi School.
Long Island Regional Volunteer of the Year: Clark D. Ruiz II
Ruiz, a longtime member of the Long Island Regional Council, volunteers as Nassau County Delegate and serves on the Junior Competition Committee. He has run numerous USTA junior tournaments on Long Island and volunteered his time on a number of committees and at many Council events. He was instrumental in setting up and being the tournament director for the Girls High School tournament run by the Long Island Regional Council this past spring.