SKILLMAN, NJ - Dave Fish, the Scott Mead '77 Head Coach for Harvard Men's Tennis, has been named the winner of the 2014 ITA Meritorious Service Award, presented by ConantLeadership, for his outstanding commitments and contributions to the ITA and college tennis. Fish will be presented with a personalized ITA Awards plaque at the ITA Coaches Convention at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Florida during the ITA Membership and Awards Banquet on Sunday, December 14.
In addition, the ITA will treat Fish and a guest, courtesy of ConantLeadership, to the Rolex Enshrinement Weekend in Newport, RI, in July. He will be recognized during the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) Luncheon on Saturday morning, immediately prior to the ITHF Induction Ceremony.
A 1972 graduate of Harvard, Fish was captain on the Crimson's squash and tennis teams and contributed to an Ivy League championship in tennis as well as three national championships in squash. In 1976 he became the head tennis coach of his alma mater, and since then he has compiled a 626-284-1 record, the most wins in program history. His teams have dominated Ivy League play, winning twenty conference championships over the last thirty-three seasons, a period in which he's coached fifteen individual ITA All-Americans. Fish is a four-time ITA Regional Coach of the Year, receiving the honor in 1993, 1998, 2008 and 2012.
Fish has been a steadfast contributor to college tennis since he first sat on the ITA Board of Directors and Operating Committee and NCAA Division I Tennis Committee beginning in the early 1990's. Involving himself in advocacy and administration beyond the normal expectations of a coach is a necessary responsibility for Fish. "Sometimes we have to act like an owner instead of a renter," he said. "We've all received so much from this game, from the ITA, and from our careers, and from [ITA Executive Director] David Benjamin's vision and efforts over so many years that it would be unworthy of any of us not to try to leave the ITA better than we found it."
Fish has been a frequent speaker at the ITA Coaches Convention. He has led seminars on sportsmanship, the fair play line calling system and how to best partner with parents. Fish also led discussion during his March 2010 ITA Mentoring Call, which focused on the principle "As you sow, so shall you reap, or Karmic Coaching."
Fish's most recent initiative has been Universal Tennis Rating® (UTR), an advanced 16-level player rating system that "provides tennis players worldwide with a common language for accurately and objectively identifying their own levels of play" (universaltennis.com). Fish thinks it is a great leverage point for improving American tennis.
"UTR is a bit like a Swiss Army knife," he said. "It's an aid to finding the right college or recruit. It's a passport, a social equalizer, and an enabler of local level-based competition. And it's the ITA and college tennis that gives UTR the traction for becoming an accepted and independent standard of competitiveness globally and a simple tool for finding 'a good game' anywhere."
"Dave Fish is the exemplar of the varsity tennis coach who has gone far 'above and beyond' in his service to the ITA and our world of college tennis," said ITA Executive Director David Benjamin. "Dave's multi-faceted initiatives off the court are uniquely coupled with his extraordinary on the court achievements over close to four decades as one of our country's most successful coaches. The Meritorious Service Award is more than overdue in recognition of all of Dave's contributions, and I would like to congratulate him and thank him both personally and on behalf of the ITA."
Though he's being honored for a lifetime of dedication to the sport, Fish deflects the merit in this award to the greater assets he's picked up through the years. "I have had so much fun working with so many people who have become lifetime friends through these positions that it's never seemed like work."
"I once heard someone say that he hoped one day to become a coach worthy of occupying the position he held," said Fish. "One day, I'd like to be worthy of receiving this honor, but I'll take it now...on credit!"