High School tennis courts named after longtime coach Ned Fennessy

Retired boys tennis coach Ned Fennessy had the honor of removing the 2012 boys tennis state championship banner to uncover a sign with the court's new name, his name. — Photo by Susan Safford

On Saturday fans of longtime boys tennis coach Frank Edward Fennessy III filled the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School tennis court bleachers. They were witness to the naming of the courts in honor of the successful and admired coach who retired after 23 years last spring.  The courts are now the Ned Fennessy Tennis Courts.

Superintendent of schools James Weiss introduced the 80-year-old Mr. Fennessy, known as Ned, who collected 290 wins, four division and two state championships as the school’s coach.

Former players traveled from as far away as Oregon and Washington, D.C., to attend the ceremony.

His coaching career spanned seven athletic directors at the high school. The first, Donald Herman, coach of the football team, and the crowd got a good laugh when Mr. Fennessy reminded him that when he first took the job Mr. Herman told him tennis was “a minor spring sport.”

Mr. Fennessy turned the tennis program from a minor spring sport with a history of losing seasons to one producing state champions.

Always self-effacing, Mr. Fennessy was quick to note the importance of  Vineyard Youth Tennis, a free Island tennis teaching program, in helping develop the skilled young players that have helped make the team so successful.

He said that he used a four-part coaching philosophy to guide his teams. One, “No screaming. It’s not in my nature.” He said that tennis experts say that 75 to 80 percent of all tennis points are won by an error being made. “Screaming because of errors never made sense to me.”

Two, academics come before tennis. “If a player comes to me and says he has an important paper due or a test to study for I would say sure. I take them at face value. For players who try to take advantage of that it’s their loss.”

Three, “Sportsmanship is critical. No swearing, no racket throwing. One warning and then the player is off the court. Regardless of when and who they are playing.”

Four, “I want the boys to win. It’s the name of the game. As long as they are giving 100 per cent on the court, even if they lose, it is all I can ask.”

A lifelong tennis player who was taught by a father who he said was a much better player than he ever was, Mr. Fennessy took the coaching job after retiring to Florida and Oak Bluffs from a 30-year career as an engineer with Honeywell. He had served in the Navy prior to engineering school at Northeastern University.

Near the end of a short talk outlining his coaching career, Mr. Fennessy said, “There are what I call life moments — birth, graduations, marriage — and this honor is one huge life moment for me. I am so pleased, honored and humbled.”