Ace of Adams

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published December 6, 2016

ROCHESTER — At the annual Rochester Adams coaches meeting, Jason Rapp had a very important announcement.

The athletic director of the Highlanders was pleased to reveal that Al Must had won the title of Coach of the Year in boys tennis, a prestigious award that spans the entire country, handed out annually by the National High School Coaches Association.

“My first reaction was, ‘Who, me?’” Must said. “Shocked is an understatement — I was stunned to have won it. It definitely took a while to sink in.”

After 32 seasons at the helm of the Highlanders’ boys tennis program, along with nine with the girls team, Must has stacked up more than 400 career wins on the court. He has guided his clubs to 10 finishes in the state’s top five and led the girls to a state championship in 1987. Despite all of that, Must called this the highest honor he has ever received.

“It is very humbling, because there are so many other coaches that I look up to,” Must said. “It is like being on cloud nine, certainly something that I had never dreamed of.”

Must was inducted into the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011. That honor was a goal for Must, but this nationwide accolade was something that he had barely heard of, and it floored him.

“I always wanted to work to be among the elite coaches in the state,” Must said. “That honor was amazing, but I did not learn about this until I was actually selected. I had heard about it briefly before, but I never thought that it would come my way.”

Those who work with Must know he is deserving of the accolade.

“One of the things we talk about in regard to Al is consistency,” Rapp said. “That’s an important factor when you’re talking about successful programs. He’s been so stable for our tennis program and its success, and he has the results to prove it.”

Oliver Li was under Must’s tutelage for four years, playing his senior season this past fall. Li praised the coach for not only aiding his game on the court, but the bond he shared with his teammates off of it.

“Coach Must really did a lot for me,” Li said. “He helped me develop my shy and reserved nature as a person into someone who was more confident and, to put it bluntly, loud on the court. Not only that, he fostered a sense of unity and community for our team and always provided a positive environment for us.”

Must admitted that the award is truly a reflection of all those who have played under his watch. He echoed Li’s mindset of teamwork as one of the hallmarks for his success.

“My ultimate goal to be effective as a coach was to keep teaching life lessons,” Must said. “I always wanted my guys to look at more than just themselves and to truly be a part of the team. If you can’t do that, you’re not going to win in tennis or at life.”

Must has been able to overcome being in a tough district and recruitment by private schools to collect wins. But he cited his biggest rewards as the values he has been able to pass along.

“Success on the court is important because it meets goals that you are trying to achieve,” Must said. “But those life lessons, you can take those well past your high school years. When you’re playing tennis, there is a lot of cruising management. You are all by yourself on the court, and you have to strategize, focus, relax, cope and be willing to surrender yourself to be a part of the team.”

When asked if the award could signal the end to a brilliant career of three decades, Must chuckled.

“I don’t want this to change me, but why would I quit now?” Must said. “I feel like I got this award for doing what I do. It’s all about having fun, teaching and making the best possible experience for the team.”