TROY – The tennis courts where his teams have enjoyed so much success didn’t exist when Mark Goldner started his varsity coaching career. But if Troy High School senior Noah George and his Trojans teammates have their say, there will be no doubt who built them.
“To be part of his 51 years is huge. It’s awesome,” George said. “Eventually he’ll get the courts named after him. That would be so cool.”
This season marks Goldner’s 51st as Troy’s boys varsity coach. He’s also coached the girls team the past 13 seasons.
When he started coaching the boys team in 1971-72 his players swung wooden rackets. They played on five hard-surface courts in the back of Troy Community Park. And when Goldner took over the boys program from George Dearth, he had no idea he’d stay so long as Troy’s third coach since 1960, joining Dearth and Jerry Lorentz.
It was Lorentz, then the high school tennis coach and gym teacher at Forest Elementary, that introduced Goldner to the sport. Goldner, a 1966 graduate of Troy High School, enjoyed a solid career for the Trojans and later played at Bowling Green State University.
Since taking over as coach his teams have won 25 league championships and produced 35 sectional champions. They’ve made 45 district appearances and seven state appearances under Goldner.
Academically, 49 players have earned Miami Valley Tennis Coaches Association Academic Awards and 82 have won the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Silver or Golden Racquet Award.
Goldner, an eight-time MVTCA boys coach of the year, is a member of the MVTCA and OTCA halls of fame.
“What I tell our players is every day is a new day,” Goldner said. “You could play lights out Monday and struggle Tuesday. … You just have to mentally stay with it. It gets to be a grind. We had five matches last week and we have five this week. The nice thing about tennis is you get what you earn. There are no substitutes coming in and out of the game. If you’re playing doubles you and your partner have to get along together.”
Goldner, 72, entered this season 678-189 as boys coach and 163-67 as girls coach (841-256 overall).
This season the Trojans are 11-2 overall and 6-1 in the Miami Valley Conference.
George leads the team with a 14-4 overall record, including an 8-4 record at No. 1 singles. Genki Masunaga is 6-4 between No. 1 and No. 2 singles. Wyatt Hench is 16-2 (7-1 at No. 2 singles).
Matt Bess and Henry Johnston are 12-3 at No. 1 doubles. Aiden Miller and Eli Monnin are 10-6 are No. 2 doubles.
“We’ve done well. The seniors haven’t played since they were sophomores,” Goldner said referring to the 2020 spring season that was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m very pleased with the way everybody is playing. And they were very pleased to get back to playing.”
As for Goldner, his own competitive playing career ended about four years ago. He still hits with this players during practice and runs them through drills, adding “That’s good enough for me anymore.”
Goldner credits Lorentz, Dearth and all those players through the years – among many others – with helping him succeed.
“I might say that I have achieved a lot through the achievements of others,” Goldner said. “The players and teams I have coached have provided a strong tradition for Troy tennis.”
As for George, he credits his coach with helping him during a challenging doubles match at the Division I sectional tournament in 2019.
“We were up 6-5 in the first set to qualify for district. I hit an overhead and right before I hit the overhead I hear, ‘Boom!’” George said of hearing Goldner vocally anticipate George’s slam for a winner. “That got me so excited. Just that one word, ‘Boom!’ is my favorite line from him. That gave us the momentum to push forward and qualify for district.
“He’s always positive. He keeps my head in the game. That’s what I really like. I can be down on myself and he tells me to keep that positive attitude.”
Goldner has no timetable on how long he plans to coach. He still enjoys the sport and teaching it to a new generation of players, and he also admits he never envisioned coaching this long.
“It’s still fun. I’ve pushed more water off the tennis courts than anyone in the history of Troy,” Goldner joked.
“When I started it was wood rackets. Then the T2000 by Jimmy Connors was really big. Now with all the technology with rackets, real good freshmen coming in hit the ball hard with a lot of pace compared to wood rackets in the 1960s and 1970s. … Players hit the ball so much harder now. If you go to some indoor tournaments and there are really quality players, there will be fuzz all over the court because they’re just hitting the cover off the ball.”
Added George: “(He’s coached) half a century. If you think about it that’s longer than my parents have been alive. He’s definitely got a lot of wisdom and experience in the game. That’s why I’m super fortunate to have him as a coach. … He’s a great guy overall. He’s a great coach and I’m fortunate to play for him.”