Former Bluffton High School tennis player Zack Rardon probably wouldn't have been a tennis player at all if Bob Brown had a different philosophy on the game he loves.
"He had a little bit of trouble in high school," Brown recalled of Rardon. "He would have been cut, should have been cut. But we didn't cut him. ... You just never know what impact it's going to have on them."
"Anybody would cut this kid for behavior," he added. "Well, he just got a college scholarship for tennis at Limestone."
That's Brown's philosophy at its finest, and it's why the Bobcats coach is one of 10 finalists for the 2012 USTA Starfish Award, which recognizes high school coaches who implement a "no-cut" policy in their programs.
"They take one (coach) from each state that really exemplifies what it's all about," Brown said. " ... I guess I impressed somebody enough to make it to the last 10 or so."
This past season, Brown had 29 boys and 27 girls on his roster --a whopping 56 players in all. That's not exactly an easy feat to pull off considering Bluffton has just six courts and a load of jerseys to provide to a bulging roster.
"The USTA is proud to name Robert Brown a finalist for the Starfish Award, for enriching the lives of his players through his no-cut tennis program," USTA Chief Executive Kurt Kamperman said in a release. "Ensuring that all players receive real match playing time and treating all of them as equals is a sign of Robert's devotion to emphasize the one-team concept."
Brown and the Bobcats were one of the original teams to sign up for the program, which is now in its eighth year of existence. Bluffton has never cut a player in Brown's nine years with the program, he said.
"I don't have the heart to do it," he said.
Good thing he doesn't; The Bobcats are reaping the benefits because of it. Aside from its continued success on the court, Bluffton's large numbers have allowed the team to branch out more in the community than many other programs of its size. The Bobcats spent nine hours on the court Sunday giving out lessons in order to raise $1,000 for Alzheimer's disease, and nine more players will be on hand this weekend serving as ball boys/girls at the PTR $14,000 Wheelchair Tennis Championships.
A week later, the Bobcats will be in Sun City-Hilton Head for Rally for the Cure, a breast cancer awareness campaign.
"These kids that we're not cutting," Brown said, "they're out doing real good stuff."