Mt. Pleasant tennis coach earns national award
Tony Splendore has spent much of his life coaching and teaching students at the Mt. Pleasant Area School District. That dedication, especially when it comes to coaching, has not gone unnoticed as Splendore recently was named the 2013 boys tennis Coach of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association.
“I'm shocked that I have received this award,” Splendore said. “I'm very honored to receive it, and I attribute it to the thousands of kids I've coached over the years at Mt. Pleasant.”
The NHSCA, founded in 1989, each year selects coaches of the year from across the country in 20 boys and girls scholastic sports. Splendore, along with all of the coaches of the year, will be honored at the National High School Sports Hall of Fame Museum in Easton.
Splendore, who has also spent many years coaching various levels of basketball within the district, has had a tremendous amount of success as the school's tennis coach for both the boys and girls teams. A 1968 graduate of Mt. Pleasant, Splendore has coached tennis for 39 years, beginning in 1972.
“I've had so many good players and teams over the years,” he said. “One thing that I always remember was my first match in 1972. We didn't have courts at the school, so we played at a church camp. We played Norwin and we won, 3-2.”
Splendore also noted that his most crushing defeat was a 3-2 loss to Sewickley Academy during the boys 2009 WPIAL Class AA championship match.
Splendore has coached 54 seasons (boys and girls combined). His teams have had 40 winning seasons, 17 section titles and 667 victories. In the WPIAL playoffs, the boys teams have two second-place showings, two third-place finishes and three fourth-place finishes. Three of his boys teams have qualified for the PIAA playoffs. Splendore has served on the WPIAL tennis committee for 13 years.
Splendore said he has tried to always remain positive when working with the Mt. Pleasant athletes.
“I always try to instill in them to have fun,” Splendore said, explaining he has always been reluctant to cut players. “I've always tried to keep as many players as I can because tennis is a life sport, and you can always play tennis. I try to make it simple and have fun.”
Splendore also gave credit to the school district. He noted that each year, the four-court tennis facility receives an upgrade, and he is proud of the way the sport has grown within the district.
Splendore, who credited the late Sam Freed (former Mt. Pleasant athletic director) for getting him interested in tennis, has no plans of giving up the sport anytime soon.
“I really enjoy being with the young students,” Splendore said. “Being an elementary school teacher (he retired seven years ago after 34 years of teaching at Ramsay Elementary School), I've seen the kids progress, and I'd like to keep going. I'm 63, but the kids rejuvenate me.”
During his career, Splendore has coached seven individuals who have competed in the WPIAL finals and the PIAA championship tournament. David Cenkner was one of those players, and his 89 victories rank first among players who Splendore has coached. Cenkner believes Splendore is deserving of the award.
“I'm very humbled by this,” Splendore said.
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.