Charlie Garfinkel’s Racket Sports: LaDuca honored for giving his all when teaching tennis - The Buffalo News

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Charlie Garfinkel’s Racket Sports: LaDuca honored for giving his all when teaching tennis

Sam LaDuca was honored in White Plains two weeks ago at The U.S. Eastern Region’s yearly dinner as the Eastern Tennis Clinician of the year.

LaDuca is beloved by all of his students; both young and old. John Brunner is the Director of Tennis at the Village Glen Tennis Club. About 13 years ago he said, “I knew that Sam was to be a student of the game of tennis and would be an excellent teaching professional.

“He has a great personality and I could tell that he would have great rapport and would be equally proficient with adults and children. What stands out about Sam is he is so passionate about the game. I impressed on him that he should get his certification with the Professional Tennis Registry and he attained it in 2001. He knew that he would be a great role model for all of his students and would be very creative with his lessons.”

LaDuca played tennis and baseball in college. He coached baseball at Sweet Home High. When he was coaching an incident occurred that defined who LaDuca is.

Sweet Home was playing a game against Hamburg, which had a really good team. Two of LaDuca’s best players got into a heated discussion with the Hamburg coach over a close call. Even though the two were exceptional players, LaDuca benched both of them. The parents got up and cheered LaDuca’s decision, including those from Hamburg. LaDuca’s team came back to win the game even though Hamburg was a heavy favorite.

LaDuca was still a teacher at Sweet Home in 2001 and had coached tennis and baseball. He readily took the PTR test with the intention of teaching tennis when he retired from teaching. He didn’t take advantage of his PTR designation until 2009 when he was approached by Ed Leak, who was the Director of the Orchard Park Recreation Department.

“When I first approached Sam about doing a tennis program my first impression was that he would be a perfect fit,” Leak said. “His set of skills and his demeanor with the kids once he started the program proved I was right.

“His approach took our tennis program to a different level. His organization skills and professionalism was so outstanding that we expanded our summer program to the spring and fall. His work with students of all ages is unbelievable. He is one of the finest hires I have ever made in my career in the OP recreation program.”

LaDuca first started at Orchard Park with just a few hours a week. However, Leak and his staff were so impressed with LaDuca’s work that they expanded the program to 20 hours weekly. LaDuca’s daily summer schedule included morning through evening lessons.

“I loved meeting with the kids and the parents and they were all great to work with,” LaDuca said. “It felt wonderful when I would receive positive feedback from the lessons. I felt that I must have been doing something right.”

Shortly after, Brunner heard about LaDuca’s impressive teaching in the OP recreation program. Brunner asked LaDuca if he would be interested in teaching tennis part time at Village Glen. LaDuca now teaches at the Glen about eight hours a week.

“I love the enthusiasm of the kids and adults in the programs that I teach at Village Glen,” LaDuca said. “Nothing makes me happier than to see my students enjoy the game of tennis and watch the progress that they achieve.”

LaDuca takes special satisfaction in taking a beginner and helping them get to a level where they don’t need him to teach as many lessons as they did when they first started taking lessons.

LaDuca is also a student of the game. He attends many workshops sponsored by the USTA and has attended PTR Symposiums. In addition to his teaching background, LaDuca began a school board tennis program through a grant from the Junior Tennis Federation. The program began three years ago and is still going strong.

Sister Gail Glenn, the principal, and Ellen Sullivan-Garcia, director of development at Catholic Academy, had a program at school to demonstrate LaDuca’s program. Many students had never held a racquet in their hands. LaDuca’s demonstration was so popular that all slots for the program were taken by the next day.

The program has continued to be highly successful and runs for six weeks in the fall and six weeks in the spring and has had two major spinoffs. Brad Milette is a physical education teacher at the school. He has incorporated a unit of tennis into the school’s curriculum. There is also a free Summer Tennis Play Day that in the school’s parking lot. The parents and children were thrilled at the activities and involvement in the program.

Sam LaDuca is a walking endorsement for what a tennis pro should be. He is an excellent player, is in tremendous physical shape, has a wonderful persona, and is solely interested in making sure that his students learn and improve, while they are enjoying taking their lessons.


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