Led by Stan Smith, former number-one player in the world 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, and BJ’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.
Eric Turner – Director of Instruction
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 talented coach who really has eye for what his students need to achieve success.
Derek Porter – Director of High Performance
Derek was a top nationally ranked junior and played on the #1 ranked high school team in the country at Boca Raton Preparatory Academy, where he teamed with Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish. Following his high school career, he was captain of the University of North Carolina Men’s tennis team from 2002 – 2006, during which time he achieved a top-10 national team ranking. Starting his own Junior Tennis Academy in 2007, Derek has trained with many top juniors, and has coached them to receive full tennis scholarships to top colleges such as Vanderbilt University, University of Central Florida, Georgia State, UNC, Stanford, Michigan, Wake Forest and many more. Derek was also the Director of Tennis for John McEnroe’s Tennis Academy in Bethpage, NY. While in New York, Derek helped coach Noah Rubin during his run, winning Wimbledon Juniors and Kalamazoo. Derek has a true passion for the game and genuinely enjoys working with juniors of all ages and levels, coaching them to achieve all of their individual goals.
Patrick Fediuk – Head Academy Coach
Patrick most recently comes to us from his alma mater Presbyterian College where he has coached the Men’s Team for four years. In his second season, PC won the Big South Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. During his tenure Patrick coached several players who earned both Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Big South Freshman of the Year honors. Prior to PC, Patrick worked as a coach at Smith Stearns for over four years gaining experience and developing his knowledge of the game. He is one of our most passionate and well-liked coaches and knows how to motivate and get the best out of our young players.
Julian Sullivan – Head Academy Coach
Julian is originally from Philadelphia where he was the number 1 ranked player in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware region before going on to play for North Carolina State University. At NC State he played #3 singles and #1 doubles. He reached as high as thirty nationally in doubles and has had numerous wins over ranked opponents including the number one team in the nation. He is a 4-time doubles champion at the ATA National Championships. Before joining Smith Stearns he worked at the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh, North Carolina. Julian has maintained a high level of play over the years and with his strong left handed game style consistently pushes all of our students. Julian has over 10 years of coaching experience and enjoys working with all levels of junior players.
Iris Harris – Head 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.
Mike Palacio – Academy Coach
Mike Palacio is joining us from California where he served as the Interim Head Men’s Tennis Coach at University of the Pacific. He brings a wealth of knowledge from the college sector working at Elon University and Washington and Lee University prior to Pacific. This experience includes NCAA Division I & Division III Team Championships qualifying, top 75 ITA Oracle rankings, ITA Masters, NCAA DI & DIII Individual Championships qualifying, coaching Elon to its first CAA title and leading W&L to a 37th ODAC title. Mike got his start in his home town of El Centro, CA as the Head Women’s Tennis Coach and Associate Professor of Imperial Valley College where he coached State Doubles Championships qualifiers each year of his 7 year tenure while serving as the PCAC Women’s Representative and SoCal Raking Committee Representative. In 2014 Mike received the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Women’s Coach of the Year and the SoCal Section Women’s coach of the Year. Mike competed as the top singles and doubles player for IVC before transferring on scholarship to Cal Poly Pomona where he represented the Broncos as the number one doubles player and number 2 singles player.
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.
Francesco Migliano – Marketing & Communications Intern & Academy Coach
Francesco Migliano is a former Division I student-athlete at Coastal Carolina University who was named Student-Athlete of the Year in 2017. During his time at CCU, he led the men’s tennis team in SAAC (NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee), became an ITA Academic All-American Scholar-Athlete in 2016, and was a Big South Conference winner. During his collegiate career, he has posted wins against players from Texas Christian University, Texas A&M University, Georgia State University, Appalachian State, Troy University, and many others. Francesco graduated Summa Cum Laude (4.0 GPA) and currently holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics, and two Master’s Degrees – an MBA and a Masters of Arts in Communication. While in graduate school, he also served as the Team Manager of the men’s tennis team, coaching and supporting the team in achieving their goals. Prior to college, Francesco was a highly ranked player in Italy and ranked among the top 250 players in Europe.
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
Mary Brooke Kersey – House parent
Our academy partners