Inspiring Coaches a Theme at Delaware Tennis Hall of Fame Ceremony

Like every great mentor in life, kids remember a great tennis coach, a fair referee, or the person who introduced them to the game for the very first time.

There were many young adults who turned out for last night’s Delaware Tennis Hall of Fame event – including members of the Goldey-Beacom College Women’s Tennis Team, who are coached by Joe Kissel. And high schoolers and college graduates coached by Caesar Rodney High School’s Jim Harvey. And parents of nationally-ranked high school players who consider National Tennis Referee Melissa Jackson to be one of the best.

Kissel, Harvey and Jackson were welcomed into the Delaware Tennis Foundation‘s Hall of Fame Sunday night following a cocktail and dinner reception at the Wilmington Country Club. Each has spent decades guiding children and youth into reaching their potential.

Jackie Roe – 2016 Pro of the Year

Also joining the class of 2018 inductees was Jackie Roe, who, for 12 years managed hundreds of logistical details in the runup to Tennis in the Streets – a tennis playday for inner-city youth that exposes most to the game of tennis for the very first time. Roe chaired the event for eight years starting in 2010, and she’s probably got the best tennis Rolodex in the state.

“I look around this room and see an army of volunteers for Tennis in the Streets,” said Roe at last night’s induction ceremony. In fact, each of this year’s Hall of Fame honorees has been a multi-year volunteer at the tennis playday in Wilmington.

Roe only picked up the game of tennis at age 35 but quickly became one of the state’s highest-level players. She ultimately sought out opportunities to teach. While many in the community know her as a tennis coach at Greenville Country Club, scores of elementary school children in Wilmington also were influenced by her passion for the sport and her leadership of Tennis in the Streets. “I’ve had so many incredible things happen to me because of tennis.”

Joseph F. Kissel – Head Coach Goldey-Beacom College

Joe Kissel attended Temple University on a football scholarship. But at age 32, he started taking tennis lessons, eventually becoming USPTA Certified. His passion led him to coaching girl’s tennis teams – first at Archmere Academy (16 years) and later at Goldey-Beacom College, where his 12-year career has led to many awards.

Judith Cahill co-coached the Archmere squad with Kissel and introduced him at last night’s celebration. “Joe was the voice of calmness and encouragement. And when he took the job at Goldey-Beacom, Joe brought his optimism and infectious love of tennis to there, and the results have been amazing.”

The entire Goldey-Beacom squad, along with co-coach Troy Donato, turned out to support their coach last night. The international roster includes players from countries like Ecuador, Germany, Spain, Wales, and Venezuela, and Kissel spends numerous hours online researching and recruiting. But he finds his effort rewarding in more ways than one. “There is no greater satisfaction to me than to help these women come to the USA and have a better chance at life because of tennis.”

Melissa Jackson – National Tennis Referee

Hundreds of local junior tennis players are familiar with the friendly attitude and warm smile Melissa Jackson brings to her role as tournament director. But tournament players also know that Jackson also possesses a keen understanding of USTA league rules and isn’t afraid to settle a dispute or right a wrong.  

Officiating matches since 2001, Jackson is now a National Referee, working three national adult USTA tournaments on a regular basis. She also officiates the Delaware Wheelchair Tennis Championships and other junior and adult tournaments in the region. In 2016 she was awarded Middle States tournament director of the year. 

“Her work ethos, attention to details propellers her to where she is today,” said longtime friend and fellow Hall of Famer Jim Flesch. “We are all blessed to have tourney referees like Melissa.”

Jackson thanked a long list of friends, including fellow officials Pat Friz and Lois Huggins, for impacting her involvement in the game. “To all of the people who have influenced me in tennis —  you continue to teach me, guide me and fuel my spirit.”

James Harvey – Coach, Caesar Rodney High School

The Caesar Rodney Boys Tennis Team has won the DIAA state championship six of the last eight years, and that makes coach Jim Harvey pretty happy. Of course, the large school has a great bench. But Harvey believes his combination of leadership, teamwork and fun gives his players the skills they need to succeed on and off the court.

Three players — Kevin Papen ‘08, Rishi Gundakaram ’19, and Jhayden Pappas ’20 — from CR’s Boys Tennis Team showed up in support of Harvey at Sunday’s Hall of Fame dinner. They couldn’t have been more proud of their coach.

“Mr. Harvey is the most selfless person, and that’s reflected in his personal and coaching life,” said Papen, who played tennis at Washington College and now coaches there. “He has given so much time to each player he’s coached, whether they were winning a state title or were a nonstarter. There have been so many times when I coach my high school team that I try to copy how Mr. Harvey would do something because I respect him so much. What he does clearly works. So to have him as a friend and mentor is priceless,” he said.

Harvey has been named State Coach of the Year five times and in 2018 was selected as the National High School Boys’ Tennis Coach of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association. 

Special guest Ashlee Vosters

One of the special guests last night was Ashlee Vosters, granddaughter of Delaware tennis legend Madge “Bunny” Vosters, who won a record 26 national mother-daughter titles and dominated the national grass court championships throughout the 1980s. Bunny was also inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame 1980.

Ashlee has “great memories of (her) grandmother excelling in a variety of ways” on the court, and also loves the game of tennis. The high school and University of Richmond (’99) women’s tennis team standout enjoys coming back to Wilmington whenever she can to take part in the Delaware Tennis Foundation’s Hall of Fame event. A handful of tennis enthusiasts held a special Bunny Vosters tennis fundraiser for the Delaware Tennis Foundation every summer for many years at Wilmington Country Club. 

“I think tennis meant the world to my grandmother — that combination of grace, competition and sportsmanship.”

While Ashlee attended high school in Maryland, she trained at Sea Colony in Bethany Beach, and played Delaware and Middle States tournaments growing up.  Melissa Jackson officiated some her tournament matches, and she knows Roe and Kissel through her involvement in the Delaware tennis community.

“I love tennis. You spend your whole life working to master the combination of grace, competitive spirit and sportsmanship, and that’s what keeps you coming back for more,” she said. “And that’s why I’m here tonight — to support the game and these incredible people who have made such a difference in our community.”


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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.