Schools Sports

A Half-Century Ace: Coach Jim Solomon’s Lasting Impact on and off the Tennis Court

Hall boys tennis coach Jim Solomon was the subject of an article in the June 2019 issue of West Hartford LIFE. Photo with the 2019 boys tennis team by David Heuschkel for West Hartford LIFE

Jim Solomon is the longtime boys tennis coach at West Hartford’s Hall High School.


In the world of high school tennis, coach Jim Solomon has created a culture of achievement and sportsmanship that stands the test of time. As Hall High School celebrates the remarkable 50-year milestone of his coaching tenure, his legacy reverberates through the courts, defined by countless victories, unparalleled dedication, and a profound impact on generations of young athletes.

The longtime coach’s resume is unmatched in Connecticut, holding the most dual match wins of any tennis coach, four state titles, 23 league championships, and becoming in 2019 “the all-time winningest boys tennis coach in the state,” according to Hartford Courant.

In coaching the same high school tennis team for a full half-century – a phenomenon in Connecticut history – Solomon has led highly motivated and engaged individuals, channeling their collective drive and helping them prioritize their many endeavors. “My strength has been an ability to know student-athletes as individuals so that I can know how to maximize their talents and interests,” Solomon said.

Marc Pasciucco, a Class of 1994 Alumnus, concurred and said, “He pushed for his players to work hard and be their best (on and off the court), but not in a way that caused any friction within the team. A very difficult balancing act in a sport that is so individually focused.”

“I maintain the same high standards for myself as a coach as I do for players. I want my love and enthusiasm for tennis to be palpable and contagious,” Solomon said.

This philosophy resonates with his players as Solomon leads by example. “Back in the day, after practice, we used to dodge the post-run by hiding out at a teammate’s house,” Todd Liebman, a Class of 1991 Alumnus recalls. “Coach caught on, and instead of getting upset, he joined the run, ensuring everyone completed it. There were no more shortcuts, but it made us all better prepared for our matches!”

While the veteran coach sets high expectations for his players, he often says that perfect, error-free matches do not exist. “He wants his players to win, but knows that losing is where the learning really happens,” Hall boys JV tennis Coach Allan Polak said.

An open mindset embracing the ongoing potential for improvement has undoubtedly served Solomon well in coaching generations of student-athletes. “He learned to evolve with the world and evolve with the players while understanding that one thing has not changed; players want to play in a sport where they are treated as important members of the team,” former Conard tennis coach Stephen Blanchfield said about his close friend and rival.

This enduring ethos is evident in the coaching of the players, which extends well beyond the scope of tennis. Solomon has been melding his teams into cohesive units with the distinct feeling of an extended family. “We are not just coaching tennis players, but helping our players make the journey from boyhood (freshmen) to young men (seniors),” Polak said.

Relating well with his players and creating lasting connections with them has been one of Solomon’s strong attributes. “Coach Sol has this one of a kind ability to constantly communicate with everybody,” senior captain Ben Isaacson said. “I don’t know how he does it, but he remembers most of his former players, and makes sure to communicate with them.”

Solomon started forging these relationships in 1973 as a first-year English teacher when he accepted the opportunity to lead the freshman baseball team. The following year, he transitioned to tennis and has been the heart and soul of the program ever since – winning numerous accolades, including National Coach of the Year for various groups, induction to the Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame, and the significant USTA Starfish Award in recognition of the “no-cut” policy in place since 1992.

In 1991, freshman Jon Slifka, a wheelchair tennis player, requested to try out for the team. Solomon was highly supportive and went to great lengths to allow Jon to try out. While he didn’t ultimately make the cut, Solomon still invited Jon to keep score of matches and hit with the other players. “I learned many years later that I was the hardest cut Coach Sol ever had to make,” Jon said.

The following year, Solomon instituted the “no cut” policy and created the Junior Varsity team – an approach that allows every player on the team to thrive. Jon was invited to participate in the Junior Varsity team as a sophomore. “Each of these memories continue to have a profound impact on me in terms of self-confidence and incredible feelings of gratitude towards Coach Sol,” Jon said.

Solomon’s impact on the community stretched beyond tennis. As an English teacher at Hall, he ran the ASK program, which combined academics and mentoring for students at risk of not graduating. With this group “of bright individuals that appeared unmotivated and disengaged. … I had to find creative ways of sparking interest, enthusiasm, and desire to achieve,” Solomon said. “What I loved about teaching and coaching was that teaching made me a better coach, and coaching made me a better teacher.” Multiple generations of students and student-athletes are grateful for his unwavering dedication and for having faith in them.

As for future plans, Solomon has yet to set a date to retire from leading the tennis program. Instead, he is focused on the present, excited to coach his 50th year on brand-new courts. “The groups we have now, and frankly most groups I have had, are terrific student-athletes and are a joy to coach!” Solomon said. “You guys [the student-athletes] are keeping me young.”

This article previously appeared in the Dec. 2, 2023 issue of the “Hall Record” and has been submitted to We-Ha.com for publication. The author is the captain of the Hall boys tennis team and editor of the “Hall Record.”

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