May 3rd, 2017
Schools Coaching Legend Gonzalez Named USTA Florida Tennis Volunteer of the Month
Kids and parents at local tennis events in Clearwater, Fla., find Emilio Gonzalez a kind and unassuming volunteer — little knowing they’re being assisted by one of the most accomplished school coaches in Florida history.
“I know I can always count on Emilio to step up and fill any number of volunteer spots,” says Judy Foster, executive director of the Suncoast Tennis Foundation, of Gonzalez who has coached more than 47 years in Florida.
The Clearwater community has benefited from Gonzalez for the past 10 years, but in his previous life on Florida’s other coast he volunteered and set a number of coaching records in the Miami area.
As coach of the Miami Sunset High School girls, he saw the team to 10 consecutive 4-A state titles, a record that still stands. He coached at Miami Sunset for 25 years, also winning three straight boys’ state titles. In 2004 he was named the National Coach of the Year for girls’ tennis, and on-court at the Miami Open he was inducted into the Dade County Tennis Association Hall of Fame.
Outside of his schools involvement he has also coached individuals and groups, and has been both a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) certified member for more than 35 years. He is also USTA High Performance certified.
Gonzalez’s can-do attitude emerged at an early age. His high school had no tennis team, so he convinced school administrators to start a team. He recruited his fellow team members and a faculty member to coach the team. That memory returned full circle for him last year when he was inducted into his high school’s Sports Hall of Fame at Immaculata-LaSalle High School in Miami for the the class of 1965.
For approximately 40 years he was a high school guidance counselor, also providing psychological counseling that lent itself to sports psychology boosts for his boys’ and girls’ teams.
“I also co-owned Children’s Educational Services, providing families with educational and school psychological services,” he says. “I wrote a weekly column on educational topics for ‘El Diario de las Americas,’ a well-known newspaper published in the Miami area for the Hispanic community.”
Since relocating to Clearwater in 2007, Gonzalez has been an active volunteer for tennis at all levels, and is a board member with the Suncoast Tennis Association.
“Emilio has been a valued member of the Suncoast Tennis Foundation Board of Directors for over two years and is an outstanding volunteer for all the Foundation’s programs and events,” Foster says.
At Clearwater High School he was a volunteer assistant coach, and he currently assists at Pinellas Park High School and other school programs. An advocate for tennis at the grassroots level, he is a member of the advisory board for the Pinellas County Parks & Recreation Department.
“He presently coaches at both a local high school and elementary school and has made a tremendous difference in the growth of tennis programs at those schools,” Foster says. “His love of the sport of tennis and dedication to growing it are such a big part of his life and we are fortunate that he passes that on to so many in our community.”
USTA Florida congratulates Emilio Gonzalez as the April Tennis Volunteer of the Month for giving to the Miami and Clearwater tennis communities.
“By now, it’s in my blood,” Gonzalez says of his volunteering. “I’m blessed to still be playing and enjoying good health!”
Birthplace: Tampa, Fla.
Family: Alex, Kristine, Nina and Danny
Favorite Movie: “The Sound of Music (a ball hitting the strings)”
Favorite Food: “International, but still like a good BBQ!”
Favorite Travel: “Wimbledon, England, where I saw one of my girls play in 1984”
Favorite Shot: “Any shot that goes in”
My earliest tennis memory was…”Picking up a tennis racquet at Davis Island in Tampa when I was in fifth grade. I still have the racquet.”
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be…”Anyone who would like to play doubles, regardless of their level.”
When I am not playing tennis I am…”Miserable.”
My best tennis memory is…”Still to come! So many others, like the time I took my [Miami] boy’s tennis team to Kansas City and we won a high school national tournament. We were the only public school represented and beat great private schools from New York and California.”