Nazareth tennis coach uses art to give students a lifetime supply of memories

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Paul Waida is a Nazareth tennis guy through and through. He played there in the late 80s while he was a student. Afterward, he was anything but done with the game.

Spending some time as a coach at Pittsford Sutherland, and a teaching pro in the area, it all led him back to his alma mater.

"Just loves teaching tennis and loves helping developing these kids and seeing them prosper on the tennis courts," said Nazareth Athletic Director Pete Bothener.

Working under program icon Annette Shapiro, Waida had learned the tools to lead a program. When she retired, he got his shot.

"She knew she was going to be retiring and she thought Paul would be a great fit for us," Bothener said.

Under his leadership, the Golden Flyers have lived up to their name. the Men finished 3rd in the conference tournament in his first season. Four years ago, the Women’s team won their 1st conference title, one of thirteen appearances in the postseason.

Before taking over the reins, though, he felt he’d be asked to give a speech at one of Shapiro’s end of the year banquets, something he dreaded doing.

"I do not like public speaking. So what I came up with the idea, well, I’ll just use these little awards with some of the kids that were graduating," Waida said. "I’ve done tennis for just as long as art, so and I just got to combine them in this weird, this weird way. And it’s kind of a blessing, you know? And then I get all these great kids I get to pay homage to," Waida said.

An art major, Waida turned a room in his basement into a craft shop, where he spends quite a bit of time.

"So if I’m if I have seven or six or seven now, it’s going to take me the whole year. And I’ll start from the fall and go right to the spring and right to our banquet," Waida said.

That’s what it all leads up to. The seniors know they’re getting something, they’re just filled with suspense waiting to see what it is.

Waida has crafted around 70 gifts over 18 years. Though they’re all unique, the same component is at the center of them all.

"A good coach will usually get to know the kids. I found that that gives us a leg up on everyone else because the kids know that I care about them," Waida said.