A Little Red era ends, but a legacy lives on

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By Mark Shelley

Tompkins Weekly

 

For over a decade, the Ithaca Little Red Boys Varsity Tennis team has known one thing, an era of consistency and success under head coach Arthur Falkson. After 14 years with the program, Falkson has decided to bring the era to a close.

Beginning in 2004 Falkson had one goal, to use his knowledge and skill set to build a dominant force out of the Ithaca High squad. Beginning as an assistant, he started instructing young players and helping them grow their game and lead impactful lives. “I’ve tried to grow a program known for exemplary sportsmanship and character as well as develop improved skills and practice habits and instill confidence in team members by building a successful record,” Falkson wrote in a letter to his team. While working on developing character and leadership traits for the boys, Falkson never lost sight of the competitive goals he set for his team.

Taking over as the Head Coach of the Varsity Boys Tennis team in 2007, Falkson began providing the guidance that his teams needed to begin a historic run. At the beginning, his Little Red squad began stringing together a few wins. Over the next few seasons, the winning didn’t stop.

Falkson’s varsity squad began to roll and powered its way to a 91 consecutive match win streak, a streak that continues into the upcoming 2019 season. The mark has landed Falkson and his teams into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association record books as the third longest winning streak in Boys Varsity Tennis history.

Falkson saw his final season capped with a victory over Maine-Endwell that captured the program’s seventh straight Southern Tier Athletic Conference Championships and the streak intact.

Despite the success and a resume that bolsters talented squads and numerous titles, Falkson felt that it was time to focus on other obligations within the game of tennis. In his letter he provides insight into the decision to leave the team, writing, “I need to make difficult decisions as to how I allocate my time.” He further writes, “in consideration of my other professional commitments and opportunities as well as other considerations I’ve decided to step away from the program at this time.”

 

In recent years, Falkson saw his plate begin to fill with opportunities to grow the game of tennis through instruction and organizing. While coaching the Little Red, he conducted tennis lessons and taught tennis as a physical education instructor at Cornell and oversaw the Eastern and National United State Tennis Association Tournaments as the Tournament Director, all of which he will continue to do.

Earlier this year, Falkson received a grant from the USTA’s Junior Tennis Foundation to create a program at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) in order to grow the game locally even more. Further into his letter, Falkson writes, “my feelings are mixed about this decision, but I’ve come to the realization that this is the best choice at this time,” citing the program’s success and his desire to grow the junior program.

While a tough decision to make, Falkson hopes that his choice will benefit children in the greater Ithaca area. In his letter, he notes, “The program was very successful this summer and it’s been extremely gratifying for me to learn a new curriculum and to instruct young athletes ages 7-12 who quickly and enthusiastically picked up skills.” With his continued work with the program, he hopes to see it designated as a National Junior Tennis and Learning chapter.

While the Little Red Varsity Boys Tennis team will look to continue its long-running success under the direction of a new coach, the legacy of success and lessons of sportsmanship and character will last beyond the Arthur Falkson era.

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