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Benson ends tennis coaching career

Rob Benson had a routine ever since he became the tennis head coach at Salisbury High School in 2011. He would send emails to his players and their parents after every match with a recap. He’d also include lyrics from some of his favorite songs that were relatable to the match.

On October 21, Benson clicked send one last time.

The longtime head coach recently announced his retirement after 10 seasons coaching the girls and nine with the boys program at Salisbury. Benson led the girls’ team to a 9-2 record this past regular season, bringing his career record to 74-80. He was also 68-53 as the boys head coach.

“It’s my way of putting a little humor into it,” Benson said of his post-match emails. “Sometimes the kids didn’t get it, but the parents and grandparents did. There is always going to be some humor in there with me. That is how we did practices, too. We had fun. I didn’t believe in hitting 2,000 balls a day.”

Benson’s humor embodied what it was like to play tennis for Salisbury over the past decade. And there’s no question that the players and parents will miss him.

But Benson, who is 75 years old, knows it’s the right time to step away from a sport he fell in love with and played in California growing up.

“I’ll miss it,” Benson said. “But don’t forget, during my first year we only had five girls come out for the team. We had to forfeit second doubles every time. That is why we only had one win that year. Now we are getting 10-15 girls come out every season.”

“It’s been a great 10 years working with Rob,” Salisbury Athletic Director Monica Deeb said. “He is so passionate about tennis. His players loved him. We will really miss him and his sense of humor.”

That relationship is a two-way street. Benson has built strong relationships with many families over the years at Salisbury, and that’s particularly difficult for him to say goodbye to.

“I said my goodbyes to the players and the parents,” Benson said. “Like the Bonge family. I’ve known them for 10 years. I’ve always had a Bonge on the team. I think I met Krista when she eight or nine years old. She would come to watch her brothers play. It’s kind of sad because I had a good relationship with all of the parents.”

He’ll also miss the relationships he’s made with Deeb and other coaches at Salisbury over the years. Benson has had numerous players play other sports, and all of those coaches were supportive of the tennis program.

“The other coaches have been great as far as working with the players,” Benson said. “We had Sarah McGee, who was both a soccer player and tennis player in the fall season. And we’ve obviously had a couple of basketball players through the years, both boys and girls. That helps a lot.”

The success wasn’t a one-person operation over the past decade. It couldn’t have been possible without the help of his coaching staff, who will take over with the boys program in the spring.

For Benson, he’s helped make history at Salisbury. The most memorable accomplishment came in 2016 when John Yurconic and Mason Groff won PIAA Class 2A gold in the doubles tournament. Yurconic also won the District 11 Class 2A singles tournament in 2017 after beating Groff, his cousin, in the finals.

Benson also had four players over the years earn the Colonial League Sportsmanship Award, including this year’s winner Bryn Kubinsky. Kubinsky also paired up with Paige Gibbons to earn third place in the district doubles tournament this past fall.

The one thing Benson wanted to do was give something back to the sport he started playing at a young age.

“It was definitely a worthwhile experience for me,” Benson said. “And hopefully I made a difference. That’s what I had hoped to do, just by teaching.”

The way Benson ended his final email sums it up best: “Coach has left the building!!”

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Coaching doubles state champs John Yurconic (left) and Mason Groff (right) was one of many highlights in Rob Benson's Salisbury coaching career.