She was a
difference maker in every sense of the term.
What the late
Judy Rezatto lacked from her playing days, she more than made up
for in intensity, passion and motivation. It was what separated
her from those in her field and has garnered her this year’s
Tennis Achievement Award from the South Dakota Tennis Hall of
lost a five-month battle with cancer this past March, never
played organized tennis while growing up. She was a swim coach
when the tennis job at Aberdeen Roncalli opened up and she was
asked to fill the position.
“She became a
coach out of the blue,” said her son Brett, who was off at
college when his mother informed him of her decision. “She
called me and said, ‘I’m the new head coach at Roncalli,’ and I
said, ‘What do you know about tennis?’ was the first thing out
of my mouth. She never coached tennis.”
Born to be a
coach, Rezatto went to work and immersed herself in the sport.
Soon, she possessed the knowledge of tennis to accompany her
strong coaching traits.
“I used to see her get video tapes and DVDs and just different
stuff on techniques,” Brett said. “She built her knowledge base
with whatever she could, either by watching tennis, by talking
to other people, by using instructional aids; whatever was at
her disposal she would do it. She was far ahead of her time as
far as that goes.”
What Rezatto lacked in technique, she more than made up for in
getting the most out of the players she worked with.
expected a lot from her players, but in the same token she gave
so much of herself and her time back to the players,” said
Colette Quam, who benefitted from having Rezatto as an assistant
girls’ coach for about 15 years.
her early days when she first got to know Rezatto.
“We started out
as rivals on the tennis court,” Quam recalled. “I felt honored
when I first got invited to play tennis with Judy and her
Quam soon found
out Rezatto’s passion for coaching and helping others.
“We were at
practice and Judy walked over and said, ‘Say, would you like
some help?’ That really started our friendship right there,”
Quam said. “We just had a lot in common.”
Rezatto was tireless in her efforts in trying to bring out the
best in those around her.
Steve Barnett, the current South Dakota State Auditor, saw that
first hand when he coached with her for four seasons.
“That’s when you
really appreciated what she was doing for Roncalli tennis and
for the tennis community,” said Barnett, who also had Rezatto as
a coach in both swimming and tennis. “You figured out the time
that she was really putting in.”
And it wasn’t
just the hours that Rezatto was putting in so much as what she
was putting into those hours. A true taskmaster, it was her way
or the highway when it came to getting down to business.
stubborn,” said Brett, who also coached under his mother for
three seasons. “She was not going to miss a practice, rain or
She also made
sure those practices were not a waste of time for her or whoever
she was working with.
“She hated half
effort from anybody,” Brett recalled. “She just hated if you
didn’t give your best effort. It really annoyed her.”
never had to ask if Rezatto was annoyed or not.
sugar coat anything,” Barnett said. “She told things the way it
While tough and demanding, Rezatto earned the respect of her
players and peers with her tough love and fair style.
“She treated the
best player the same as the least talented player,” Barnett
Not only that, but she treated public school players the same
as those that attended Roncalli.
husband, Brian, noted that she worked with at least a dozen
neighborhood children, boys and girls, that went on to become
either state champions or number one players at Roncalli and
“The kids were
the thing that she really enjoyed,” Brian said. “Her kids were
of a player’s school affiliation, they all learned the same
lesson under the watchful eye of Rezatto. A lesson that Barnett
still uses in his job to this day: hard work equals success.
“She’s kind of
little bit like (former Northern state basketball coaching
legend) Don Meyer,” Barnett explained. “She wants to prepare you
for the bigger picture in life. I didn’t always find success in
the swimming pool or on the tennis court, but I found it in
who was named the 2007 Boys’ Tennis Coach of the Year by the
South Dakota High School Coaches Association, may have ventured
into the game of tennis without the sparkling resumes of her
peers, she and her squads made the most of their role as the
the smallest enrollment of any school that offers tennis,
Roncalli routinely finished near the top of state tournaments,
including Rezatto’s last ever coaching assignment when the
Cavaliers finished fourth last fall in the girls’ state tourney.
“I think her
proudest moment was this (past) year when her girls got fourth
by two points,” Brian said. “That was the most exciting event
that I’ve ever been to. Every match was close.”
with nearly 200 combined dual wins in her four seasons as girls’
coach and 20 years as boys’ coach. Her girls’ teams went 40-53
and her boys’ squads had a record of 152-133 for a final overall
mark of 192-186.
loved more than the wins and losses was working with kids who
were willing to work to get better, who shared the same
competitive drive that she had in abundance.
“If you were
willing to put in the time, she would coach you,” Brett said.
“She would go over there (to the courts) every day, for three
hours a day and wouldn’t even charge you a dime.”
demanding, competitive and an advocate for tennis and those who
play it was simply the Rezatto way.
“She was a great
person and extremely competitive,” Barnett said. “She will be
greatly missed by a number of folks. She really was one of a