Led by Stan Smith, former number-one player in the world and former USTA Director of Coaching, Billy Stearns, one of the world’s top coaches, and B.J. Stearns, former top nationally and internationally ranked player and Academy Director, the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy is uniquely designed for individual junior player development.
Under Stan, BJ, and Billy’s leadership, a staff of highly qualified coaches specifically trained in the Smith Stearns approach work one-on-one with committed young people to help them reach their full potential as players.
A former #1 world and U.S. player, Stan Smith won the U.S. Open in 1971 and Wimbledon in 1972. He represented the U.S. in the Davis Cup for 10 years, winning the coveted championship seven times. All told, he has won 39 singles titles and 61 doubles titles, most recently the 55-and-over title at the 2004 U.S. Open. Stan was Director of Coaching for the USTA Player Development Program, working with Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati, Todd Martin, Chandra Rubin, Mal Washington and Chris Woodruff, among others. He was coach of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Men’s Tennis team in Sydney, Australia. He is known for his ability to communicate clearly on how to improve technique, strategy, tactics and mental approach to the game – as well as for his legacy of sportsmanship and courtesy.
B.J. Stearns – Academy Director
The winner of 18 National Championships, B.J. Stearns attended the University of Texas, where he played #1 singles and doubles and was team captain. As a junior, he was a member of the U.S. National Team, won the Kalamazoo Doubles twice in the 16s, was Orange Bowl winner in the 12-and-under category, and won various other international titles in addition to his 18 gold balls. He has wins against accomplished players such as Paul Goldstein, Justin Gimelstob, Marcelo Rios, Gustavo Kuerten, Magnus Norman and Mark Philippoussis. In addition to his own career, B.J. has had a very successful transition into coaching as he has trained various state, sectional, national, and international champions, while also directing the academy on a daily basis. B.J. believes his students can achieve high levels of play while having fun. He believes that good tennis players need to be technically sound and also have a complete understanding of the strategy of the game.
Jolene Watanabe – Director of Instruction/Senior Academy Coach
An 11 year WTA Tour veteran, Jolene Watanabe earned a career high singles ranking of #70, with accomplished wins over Jennifer Capriati, Brenda Schultz McCarthy, Iva Majoli, Amy Frazier and Chanda Rubin. She has played in 20 main draw grand slam tournaments, won 12 total ITF titles and 11 USTA National titles. Jolene was also the first female coach of World Team Tennis, when she coached the New York Buzz from 2003-2007. She is certified as a high performance coach by the United States Tennis Association.
Eric Turner – Senior Academy Coach
Eric originally came to Smith Stearns as a young player where he lived and trained at the academy throughout his junior career. As a junior, Eric won two National Open Championship titles and reached the quarterfinals of the Super Nationals four times and the semi finals twice. He won a bronze ball in doubles at the Winter National Championships and also competed in the Orange Bowl. Eric then went on to play at NC State before transferring to Elon University where he played #2 singles and #1 doubles and earned First-Team All Conference honors. He led his team to a conference championship his junior year and as a senior he was voted the captain of the team. Eric has earned his USPTA certification and is excited about his new career as a coach. He is a fresh young talent with a lot of passion
Worth Richardson – Head Academy Coach
Worth is one of a handful of coaches to lead players to births in both the Division I and Division III NCAA Championships. Over a short collegiate coaching career, he amassed two conference Coach of the Year honors and recruited six conference Rookies of the Year. At the Division I level, he served as an assistant at academic powerhouses Bucknell and William & Mary and was the head coach at Norfolk State. His time coaching in Division III as the Head Coach at NC Wesleyan and the assistant at his alma mater Christopher Newport saw him mentor seven All-Americans including 3 players ranked in the top 10 nationally. He is no stranger to working with top juniors as a coach thru the USTA Mid-Atlantic he has worked with the likes of gold ball winners Francis Tiafoe, Natasha Subhash, and Evan Zhu.
Alfredo Soliz – Academy Coach
Alfredo Soliz is a tennis professional with more than 25 years of experience. As a former Bolivian National Coach, Alfredo traveled in South America and Europe for more than 7 years with the top ranked junior players, developing many national and international champions along the way. Alfredo is a former FED CUP coach, ITF coach, PTR National Tester, and Etcheverry Certified Fitness Trainer. He has presented many times at the PTR Tennis Symposium on Hilton Head Island, the PTR Inaugural Asian Tennis Seminar in Shanghai China in 2007, the ITF Worldwide Tennis Seminar in Valencia, Spain in 2009, as well as various other seminars around the world. Alfredo is a high energy coach with years of experience, who is passionate about helping young players develop.
Naoko Ueshima – Academy Coach
Naoko Ueshima (Nao) comes to us with a wealth of tennis experience and knowledge that she gained from being a top ranked junior and collegiate player at the University of Georgia. During her junior career, Nao was ranked as high as #4 in Japan and has wins over notable WTA tour professionals Christina McHale and Melanie Oudin. At the University of Georgia, Nao was a standout, breaking multiple records during her career. She established the UGA school record for combined wins over a four-year span with 222, tallying 113 in singles and a record setting 109 in doubles. She was a part of the team that reached #1 in the nation during the 2007 season and captured three Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles. Nao also clinched the winning match during the finals of the SEC tournament against Florida. Nao has a passion for children and enjoys every minute she is on court helping all of her students!
Iris Harris – Academy Coach
Iris brings with her a wealth of playing experience, as she was the #1 ranked junior player in the Girl’s 18’s USTA National Rankings in 2013 and has competed in all of the junior grand slam tournaments. Iris made the singles quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl, the doubles semifinals of Wimbledon, and the quarterfinals of both Roland Garros and the US Open. She has been coaching tennis for over ten years now and will use her experience and love of the game to help guide our up and coming players.
Remi Chancerel – Academy Coach
Remi Chancerel comes to us from the southwest of France where he lived and played his entire junior career. Remi moved to the US four years ago to further pursue his tennis and obtain his bachelors degree. He was a student-athlete at Youngstown State University for one year, then he transferred to Florida Atlantic University where he graduated in May of 2018 with a degree in International Business. At FAU, Remi was a star athlete, playing mostly in the #1 and #2 positions in singles and #1 position in doubles. Remi has an upbeat, positive attitude that he brings to practice every day and is passionate about teaching all of his students!
Graeme Joffe – Academy Coach
Originally from South Africa, Graeme played junior tennis in his native country before pursuing a career in media where he was a Sports Anchor for CNN International for seven years. After his career in media, Graeme decided to pursue his passion to teach tennis. He is PTR certified and loves to work with players of all ages and make it a fun experience at the same time! He has a great personality and the students enjoy being on his court!
Meet our Support Staff
Joanie Hyndman – Academy Administrator & Director of Admissions
Kelley Stearns – Academy Administrator & Director of Student Services
Kelley was consistently ranked in the top ten nationally as a junior player and travelled internationally with the USTA to various trips across the globe including participation in the World Youth Cup. Junior highlights include doubles titles at both the Easter Bowl and Eddie Herr and singles runner-up finishes at the Eddie Herr International and the National Clay Courts. Before college, Kelley played some professional tournaments for two years, earning a WTA ranking of #570 and winning the doubles title in a $25,000 pro circuit event. Kelley then attended the University of Georgia on a full scholarship and helped the Bulldogs to two SEC Conference Championships as a player and another as a volunteer coach while also achieving top five national rankings as a team. As a senior Kelley played both #1 singles and doubles for UGA and was named the MVP at the SEC Tournament. She then completed her Masters Degree in Sports Management in her last year at UGA.
Mike DeMaria – Exercise Physiologist & Strength Training Specialist – Owner of Athletes First – www.athletesfirsthhi.com
Mike DeMaria is a notable Exercise Physiologist, International Strength Coach & “trainer to the pros” residing in Hilton Head Island, SC. He is also a former athlete himself, proud “son of coach”, and served in Operation Desert Storm in the USAF. His formal education is based in Exercise Physiology, Functional Movement and Sport Biomechanics. He maintains national certifications with the National Strength & Conditioning Association, American College of Sports Medicine, and the American Heart Association. For nearly 20 years, Mike has coached many world class athletes and worked with various sport legends such as Gary Gilchrist Golf & Adidas Tennis Icon & former #1 in the world… Stan Smith. Mike has travelled on tour to work with professional athletes and his training programs have made it into Time Magazine, Tennis Life, and Fitness Management. His professional background includes working for the Orlando Magic Organization, General Manager of Impact Athletics and Owner of BioNetics Sports & Rehab Centers. He has personally trained countless juniors & adults, division one athletes, national team members, 56 NCAA All-Americans, Numerous NBA All-Stars, MLB players, Top players of WTA/ ATP, & Top 10 PGA/LPGA & Tour Pros. He currently serves as a Performance Consultant to numerous NCAA universities, including the University of Virginia Mens Tennis Team (NCAA #2). Those teams alone featured two NCAA Singles Champions, two NCAA Doubles Champions, 20 All-Americans, 19 NCAA singles and nine NCAA doubles participants, 28 All-ACC selections, two ITA National Players of the Year, four ITA Regional Rookies of the Year, two ACC Freshmen of the Year, six ACC Tournament MVPs, and an ACC Player of the Year. Additionally, he serves as a national fitness advisor to the world organization, Tennis Industry Association. (www.tennisindustry.com). His services includes functional assessments, sports specific training, player progress reports, college placement, international consulting, fitness certifications, fitness manuals, and sport rehabilitation.
AJ White – Fitness Trainer
Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M. – Mental Conditioning
Passionate about personal growth and the development of high performance team cultures, Matt has more than a decade of experience working with athletes, coaches, parents, businesses and educators on the mental aspects of elite performance.
As a Performance Consultant with Telos Sport Psychology Coaching, Matt assists the development of individuals and teams from the junior level to the highest professional ranks through workshops, individual meetings, speaking engagements and publications. His clients include Olympians, NCAA teams and pros currently competing in a number of sports across the world. He has published numerous books, performance handbooks and virtual training spaces to guide performers toward reaching their potential in various domains.
For nine years, he served as Director of Mental Training for Junior Sports Corporation in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina where numerous All-American student-athletes continue to emerge from the culture created under his guidance. Matt received his Master of Education from Boston University in Counseling/Sport Psychology and is an active member of the Association of Applied Sport Psychology.
Eileen Gilchrist – Girl’s House Parent
Leroy Gilchrist – Boy’s House Parent
Tom Sweitzer and Mikell Sweitzer – House parents