Tennis coach devoted to his team, family

09/23/2010

Four-year-old Isabel put it all into perspective for dear “old” dad.

Vin Romeo and his daughter were out together when a couple commented to Izzy that it was “so nice your grandfather brought you here.”

Izzy spun around, shooting them a piercing look.

“That is not my grandfather; that’s my father,” she said.

Turning her attention to her dad, she said, without missing a beat, “I love you daddy.”

At 63, it wasn’t the first time Romeo was mistakenly tagged as Grandpa. And with 8-month-old twins also at home, it’s likely not his last.

“I am a grandfather,” he said smiling. “Why would I mind?”

Romeo, a father of five, ranging in age from 8 months to 42 years, and grandfather of three (ages 5 to 13), has a passion for parenting and he has a similar professional passion. This season Romeo is coaching his 75th high school tennis team in a career that spans 40 years, 35 at the Miami Valley School.

Romeo’s tennis teams have a combined record of 1,176-234, a remarkable .834 winning percentage. The Rams coach has been tapped as the area Division II boys coach of the year nine times and earned the honor four times on the girls side. The veteran coach and the Rams are 12-1 on the season.

In his words

“I may look craggy but I don’t feel 63. I actually have to stop and think, ‘You are 63.’ Young kids still respond to me. I think teaching high school, coaching and loving kids the way I do are all keys to staying young.

“I wasn’t going to have kids past 30, or was that 60? Nope, not that one either. I was going to retire at 62 but, with the twins, retirement is not an option. I made choices; I gave up reading all the books I wanted to read. I made a choice to spend my time with my kids — my family.

“I had nine job offers when I took the Miami Valley position. I wanted to be in a position to be a head coach in a sport I liked, and I wanted to be in a place where I would get a good education for my kids. I came in as head of the English department and head coach of the boys tennis team and here we are 35 years later.

“The hardest thing for me as a young coach was that I lost my first six matches (at Wawasee Preparatory School) and I thought to myself ‘you’re awful.’ My ex-wife convinced me to be patient and not be so hard on myself. We won our last two matches and I’ve never had a losing season since.

“Coaching is never boring; it’s still exciting even after all these years. It’s a job but it’s also a pleasure. This is my world and when you are in it this long and have had success over the years, you get to a level of respect and that’s a great feeling. I’ve had some seasons when we were 12-8, the most matches we’ve lost since I started here, but in both of those cases, we had a ton of young kids.

“I’m not a big second-guesser. When you’re a parent, a coach and you’re teaching there are going to be days when things don’t work well. My philosophy has always been, if they win, I have prepared them and if they lose, then I haven’t prepared them mentally or physically.

“My dream now, and I pray every day, is to be around to walk my daughters down the aisle when they get married. I hope to teach until the twins graduate and I’d like to be able to give their graduation speech. It would really be a thank you to the school.”