For his part, Stovell credits Fish with helping him to maximize his potential and become a smarter player.
“In life, you just hope you get a chance,” Stovell said. “If you can work really hard, maybe you get that chance. Dave gave me a chance, and really worked with me and anyone who showed the initiative to improve…. He gave me the belief that if you put in maximum effort, great things would happen. He didn’t give up on you.”
Stovell believes that it is Fish’s emphasis on hard work that has brought him such consistent success on the court over four decades.
“When we had a big match, Dave never told us that we had to go out and get a win,” Stovell recalled. “He always just said we needed to be prepared and work our hardest. He told me to be dangerous. He instilled in us his belief that if we put in the work, it would translate out there on the court.”
Fish’s focus on fostering his players’ personal growth and emphasis on hard work have reaped dividends, but what really sets him apart and has contributed to his lasting success is his desire to learn and change.
“Dave is an insatiable learner,” Rueb said. “He’s always adding to his toolkit, and that’s what keeps him so young and engaged. You would think as an older coach, you’d be set in your ways and have a formula.
But his method has always been to strive, and not to yield. He is always adding a new drill and trying new things to find an edge.”It is this will to improve, this passion for teaching the game, that keeps Fish going. After 37 seasons, he and his team are still national contenders. The Crimson, currently ranked just inside the top 50 programs in the country, has captured the last two Ivy crowns, and, after graduating only one senior in Andy Nguyen and bringing in a highly-touted crop of freshmen, is poised for more success.
“The danger of longevity is that you start repeating the same thing over and over again, and that’s not something I have an interest in doing,” Fish pointed out. “Any good coach is a good student of the game, and you have to keep up with that and try new things.”Fish has stayed ahead of the ball in collegiate tennis and remains at the top nearly 40 years later. He sees no reason to slow down now.
“I love the game,” Fish said. “If you find something you really love, why would you do something else?”
—Staff writer Justin C. Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @justincwong94.