Lockport coach Dave Shambach might be the current dean of Niagara Frontier League tennis coaches, but being the man he is, he knows his local tennis history. And he didn’t have to go too far back to come up with the name Art Johnson when making a nomination for United States Professional Tennis Association High School Coach of the Year.

Shambach put his former NFL rival from Niagara-Wheatfield up as a nominee for the award as both men are active members in the association. Just this past week, Johnson was given the USPTA Eastern Region High School Coach of the Year award at the annual convention. The Eastern Region includes the states of New York and New Jersey.

“It was a no-brainer,” Shambach said of the nomination. “What a great way to give him a small token of what he gave to kids.”

Shambach added that while the award was mostly for Johnson’s work with his unbeaten boys team last spring that feature state competitors Scott Sobiegray and Tom Sheehan, it was also for his 38 years of service to sport.

Bruce Strassburg, who was Johnson’s junior varsity coach for 11 seasons at N-W, said the veteran coach always knew the right thing to do with his players.

“The thing that I love most about him is that he never overcoaches,” Strassburg said. “He always let a young person develop their own style. Then he did his best as a coach to make them the best they could be at that style with the talent they had.”

That type of caring for each and every individual was exactly the type of person and coach Johnson will be remembered for, according to Strassburg.

“Seldom do you see a man so devoted to his athletes,” Strassburg said. “Many of his past players still come back and talk with him regularly because he had such a great impact on him.”

Shambach added, “All of his kids seemed to peak for him. He is a great tennis mind and a great man.”

Johnson was tending to family matters this past week and could not be reached for comment.

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.

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