Coaches Rinaldi, Ponkka, Boynton, James honored by USOC

May 2, 2012 11:23 AM
Four members of the tennis community were honored with national awards as part of the USOC Coaching Recognition Program. USTA Lead National Coach Kathy Rinaldi was named the 2011 USOC National Coach of the Year for Tennis; Vesa Ponkka of Huntingtown, Md., who coaches at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, a USTA Certified Regional Training Center in College Park, Md., was named USOC Developmental Coach of the Year for Tennis; Craig Boynton of Tampa, Fla., was named USOC "Doc" Counsilman Coach of the Year for Tennis for his contributions to the sport in the areas of training and conditioning; and USTA National Manager for Wheelchair Tennis Dan James of Oakdale, Minn., was named USOC Paralympic Coach of the Year for Tennis.

Rinaldi is currently a USTA Lead National Coach who works full-time out of the USTA Training Center Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla. Rinaldi was instrumental in helping a number of young American girls achieve strong results in 2011, including Samantha Crawford winning the 2011 USTA International Spring Championships in Carson, Calif., and Caroline Doyle winning the girls’ 16s title at the 2011 Easter Bowl in Rancho Las Palmas, Calif. Additionally, she helped Taylor Townsend become the highest-ranked junior player in the WTA.

As Senior Director of Tennis at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, Ponkka currently works with 150 young players on a daily basis and has also co-designed the center’s Game On! initiative, which offers tennis instruction to at-risk youth in underserved areas of Washington, D.C. Under Ponkka’s tutelage, a number of players he worked with in 2011, including Mitchell Frank, Luca Corintelli and Francis Tiafoe, all achieved No. 1 national rankings in their respective age groups. Ponkka serves as chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Coaches Commission and lectured in 2011 at the International Tennis Federation’s High Performance Training Conference.

For the past three years, Boynton has worked with American professional John Isner, who has recorded victories over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in 2012, and recently made his debut in the ATP World Tour top 10. Boynton’s approach focuses on developing his players into more well-rounded athletes as it relates to performance, as well as his belief that training methods should differ for each of tennis’ playing surfaces. He also strongly believes in rest and recovery in tennis for players to achieve top results and to best prevent injuries. 

As the Paralympic coach for wheelchair tennis, James helped Americans achieve outstanding results in 2011. David Wagner won the quad titles at both the Australian and US Opens and also won the US Open doubles title with Nick Taylor. Additionally, he coached Mackenzie Soldan, Emmy Kaiser, Jon Rydberg and Steve Welch to gold medals at the 2011 Parapan American Games. In addition to his coaching duties, James serves as an ambassador for wheelchair tennis, helping develop programs throughout Africa and Central America, and spends countless hours participating in camps, clinics and other growth of the game programs.