Up to serve

Max Schwartz, Reporter

Few high school sports teams are coached by former professionals. The Lions’ tennis team, however, is lucky to have this opportunity. This season, Coach Neale Castillo took over as head coach, bringing along with him a plethora of tennis experience.

After the departure of coach Brendan Mattingly, CESJDS had to find a replacement quickly. Shortly after opening up the coaching search, Castillo’s name was brought to Athletic Director Becky Silberman’s attention. 

“He has a lot of experience working with kids in the area and he was a very successful coach at Churchill for a long time,” Silberman said. “I could tell that he has the same values that we try to instill with our coaches here, so we knew it would be an easy on boarding.”

From a young age, Castillo was a standout tennis player. In his family, however, this was nothing new. Many of Castillo’s relatives played on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour, one of the highest levels of professional tennis. In fact, Castillo’s tennis connections were so strong that at four years old, he received lessons from Arthur Ashe, an all-time great in the sport.

Castillo’s accomplishments grew with age. He became an elite player as a teen, developing into a strong professional. He won the United States Professional Tennis Association player of the year award multiple times, and even was on the number one ranked doubles duo in the country in 2006. 

After his retirement from the ATP Tour, Castillo returned to earn his master’s and bachelor’s degrees at the University of Maryland. While he was taking classes, he began teaching tennis on the side.

“I was making more in one hour coaching tennis than I was making in a week at a restaurant,” Castillo said. “After a little while, I started teaching [tennis] full time.”

Castillo soon established himself as one of the best tennis coaches in the area and many of the top local high school players trained with him. In 2016, Castillo took the head coach position for the Winston Churchill High School tennis team. He led Churchill to two straight state championships in his first two years there.

“I believe all my experiences as a player have helped make me a much better coach,” Castillo said. “I know what they are going through on the court because I have been there at every stage and every level.”

Then, he added to his collection by securing the USPTA HS Coach of the Year in both 2016 and 2017. Earlier this year, Castillo stopped coaching at Churchill and planned to take the head coaching job at Wootton High School. However, after hearing about the new opening at JDS, he decided to apply. 

“After I spoke with [Silberman], I got intrigued by how much the program was growing and how passionate the kids were about tennis,” Castillo said. “So, I threw my name in the ring and here I am.”

In his first season at JDS, Castillo led the Lions to the brink of a PVAC Championship. Although they fell just short of their goals, Castillo was extremely proud of them.

“The kids on the team are awesome,” Castillo said. “Everyone is really passionate and wants to improve.”