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The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

New Head Coach Swings Into the New Season

Anna Miliotes
New head coach Gary Needelman talks to upper schoolers about their upcoming tournament during practice. He has been coaching for three years, but this is his first as head coach.

   With the retirement of Coach Richard Babyak, the boys and girls varsity tennis program is in new but familiar hands. Gary Needelman, who was previously the assistant coach alongside Babyak for three years, is now the new head coach of the varsity tennis program. Needelman has also brought in a new head coach for the junior varsity tennis program, Ilja Semjonovs.

   Needelman was an assistant coach for two years at the University of South Florida for the women’s tennis program. He said that he has gotten a lot of experience from his years as a coach so the transition to head coach is not a big adjustment for him. 

   “I’ve coached everyone from five-year-olds to people who are top 200 in the world,” Needelman said. “And what really sets me apart is that I am still pretty much doing all that. I’m still currently teaching private clients.”

   After Needelman’s time coaching at USF, he focused on private coaching lessons. Needelman said that he wanted to spend more time in Orlando and was looking for coaching opportunities when he was introduced to Trinity’s tennis program. 

   “Someone from Rollins College introduced me to coach Babyak who was here at the time, and he contacted me saying he needed an assistant,” Needelman said. “I just honestly thought it’d be a fun thing to do. I did not think I would stay coaching at the high school level, but I really enjoyed it here. The people were nice, and Coach Babyak and I became pretty good friends. Next thing you know, it’s three years later.”

   Needelman said that he is looking to change the culture of the tennis program. He said his plan is to base his coaching style around a collegiate style of coaching to get his players ready for this season and beyond, for those who hope to play in college. 

   “So, I am instituting a culture that is based on the rules, the discipline, the commitment, the training and the fitness all based on a collegiate model,” Needelman said. “It’s almost as if I’m doing a lot of things in the same manner that I did when I was coaching a top 20 Division I men’s program and a top 40 Division I women’s program.”

   Needelman has been focused on expanding his players’ knowledge of the game of tennis, which he accomplishes in part by doing film study with his players.

   “It’s a long season and I know it goes fast, but we have room to increase our knowledge of the game and certainly want to set it up so that every player has a chance by the season’s end to be just far beyond where they are now,” Needelman said. 

   Needelman has also brought in Ilja Semjonovs to coach the junior varsity program. Needelman said that he and Semjonovs were trained by the same person when they were becoming tennis coaches. 

   “So we were both trained in the same system and so we both understand the same science behind a lot of things in tennis,” Needelman said. “I can’t think of any better representation for the culture I’m trying to implement here at Trinity than coach Ilja.”

   Semjnovs who is originally from Latvia started playing tennis when he was five years old and has also been coaching since 2003. Semjonovs said that he has only coached private clients before and never a team. 

   “This is a new experience for me as far as teaching a team and so far all the kids are great and they seem very motivated to get better,” Semjonovs said.

   Semjonovs said that he is trying to implement the mindset of teaching valuable life lessons to his players.

   “In the end it’s all about your character, ‘’ Semjonovs said. “You can have the technique and the tactics, but it is 90% character. I’m going to teach things through tennis that they can use in life.”

   Players such as junior Thomas Garcia on the boys varsity tennis team are excited for the season and think the new coaching staff wil be helpful.

   “I am ready for the season because I think that the new coaches will give us a winning culture and they have already provided insight into the mental aspect of tennis,” Garcia said. 

   Needelman has high expectations and goals for this year’s team. His goal for the boys is to be the first tennis team to make it to the final four in the state tournament. For the girls, his goal is getting past districts, where their season has been cut short in past years. 

   “If people buy into the culture and they handle the training, well, I think by the end of the season we will be able to fight with all these other teams,” Needelman said. 

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About the Contributors
Boaz Kim, Fact Checking Editor
Boaz Kim is a senior who holds the role of fact-checking editor. Kim writes for the lifestyles department and enjoys playing basketball outside of school. As a hobby, Kim is passionate about working out as he is also on the weightlifting team. Kim also enjoys walking his dog, Toby. Contact him at [email protected].
Anna Miliotes, Photography Department Editor
Anna Miliotes is a senior entering her second year on staff, where she is photography department editor. When Anna’s not running hurdles or cross country, she’s either binge watching all the Harry Potter movies, listening to Taylor Swift or trying her best to suck up to Mrs. Miller. Contact her at [email protected].

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