BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Fixed onto the fencing surrounding the tennis courts outside Shenendehowa High School’s East Building is a sign welcoming all to the home of the school’s boys’ and girls’ tennis teams.
“Where success is measured by effort,” its bottom line reads.
Down a few yards from that sign, a banner hangs bearing the smiling face of Gene Gould and a list of his vast coaching accomplishments. His most important one, though, is listed not there but on the sign, which demonstrates the no-athletes-cut ethos of Shenendehowa tennis.
“Tennis is for everyone — Gene took that philosophy and we’ve never cut a kid from tennis,” said Bill MacArthur, the Shenendehowa tennis teams’ current coach.
Gould, who passed away in July 2014, is now set to join the Shenendehowa Athletic Hall of Fame. The longtime Shenendehowa boys’ and girls’ tennis coach, who taught physical education in the district from 1968 to 2009, will be a member of the hall’s seventh class, which is set to be inducted Oct. 15 at Clifton Park’s Hilton Garden Inn.
The accomplishments Gould amassed during his coaching tenure made his induction a question of when, not if. On the boys’ side, Gould coached from 1968 to 2011, winning 14 league titles and five Section II championships while putting together an overall record of 503-162; on the girls’ side, he coached from 1971 to 1992, winning five league titles and one Section II championship with a record of 153-54.
Between the two teams, he had 29 players — 18 boys, 11 girls — qualify for the state championships.
“He could coach you from A to Z,” said Dave Marra, a 1984 Shenendehowa graduate who helped the Plainsmen win two Section II team titles and joins his former coach in this year’s induction class.
Gould’s coaching acumen is beyond reproach. MacArthur — a 2013 hall inductee, who will help represent Gould at this year’s ceremony — remembers an instance where Gould made a mid-match strategy change for one of his doubles teams, an alignment switch that helped spark a comeback win that delivered the Plainsmen a team sectional championship.
Gould smiled and celebrated with his team after that win, but he did not gloat.
“He took no credit for it,” MacArthur said. “That really stuck with me because it was a stroke of genius.”
That attitude is what made Gould special to those who witnessed his reign as Shenendehowa’s tennis coach. While his teams were successful, his aim was to spread the game of tennis, not promote himself. The nature of Shenendehowa’s no-cut program was what Gould was most proud of as a coach. Regularly, MacArthur said, Gould’s teams had 50 to 60 kids on them between the varsity and junior varsity levels.
“One year, Gene actually had 73 girls,” said MacArthur, laughing. “That one was a little nuts.”
While some of those athletes were like Marra and had grown up playing tennis, many were novices learning the rules of the sport at the high school level.
“He had a wide range of players that he had to coach, influence and teach,” Marra said of Gould. “That’s not easy to do.”
In his six seasons playing for Gould, Marra said he never gave too much thought to his coach’s grand undertaking. As a teen, Marra said, he lacked the frame of reference to appreciate Gould beyond his own personal interactions with the coach. With each passing year, though, Marra said his respect for Gould grows.
“As I mature and have a family of my own now, I get to see how really good the guy was overall,” Marra said. “He was more than just a good coach and a good player on the tennis courts.
“He was good from head to toe.”
The Shenendehowa Athletic Hall of Fame will honor its seventh class of inductees Oct. 15 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Clifton Park. Besides Gene Gould, eight others will be inducted:
WHY: A “Lifetime Achievement” honoree, Gleason has coached at all levels and been actively involved with the school’s basketball, football, ski, soccer, and tennis programs for 40 years.
WHY: A basketball and baseball player at Shenendehowa, Hayner made Suburban Council all-league baseball teams in 1977 and 1978 before playing at Siena College. He later coached baseball at Hartwick College and is a member of the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame.
WHY: Hayner was a two-time league all-star on the baseball diamond and won one sectional title, while he also helped the school’s football team win a pair of sectional championships. Hayner later played baseball at Siena College and captained the school’s team in 1985.
WHY: An original member of the Shenendehowa High School faculty, Hill started the school’s soccer program and had a coaching record of 183-72-12 while winning six league titles and a pair of sectional championships. He also coached baseball, gymnastics, and wrestling for the Plainsmen.
WHY: A six-year starter for the school’s boys’ tennis team, Marra was a three-time Section II singles champion and a four-time Suburban Council singles champion. He helped Shenendehowa win two sectional titles and ended his Plainsmen career with a 50-match winning streak within Section II action.
WHY: A member of the Shenendehowa boys’ running program, Tebbano twice had top-five finishes at the state level in cross country and helped lead Shenendehowa to its 1998 state and federation championship wins. Between indoor and outdoor track and field, he was a four-time All-American and state champion.
WHY: A multisport athlete, Toole-Conte starred at Shenendehowa before competing at Northeastern University in track and field. In high school track and field, Toole-Conte was the 1991 state champion in the 100-meter hurdles and still holds the school’s record in the 400-meter hurdles. With the field hockey team, Toole-Conte helped Shenendehowa win a sectional championship in 1980.
WHY: Between her soccer and track and field career, Toole-Smith compiled many honors at Shenendehowa. On the track, she set school records in the 200- and 300-meter dashes, and is still a record-holder with her 4×200-meter relay teammates; on the soccer field, she was twice named the team’s most honored player, a distinction she also earned once apiece for the indoor and outdoor track teams. After Shenendehowa, she competed at Boston College in soccer, track, and lacrosse.