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The new pro on the court at The Inn is ready to fill some big shoes

September 23, 2022
By Staff Report

A new set of sneakers will be pounding the courts of The Gasparilla Inn Tennis Club this season, as the new pro. His name is John Cappabianca.

Florida born Cappabianca will be replacing Mark Horan and Jinx Howe, who left at the end of last season. John “shadowed” them last season prior to the transition.

He knows he has big shoes to fill, and he’s ready to do it. He’s listed in the top 50 players by the Florida United States Tennis Association and was a four-year lettered varsity player at Olympia High School. 

Cappabianca has been coaching for many years already. After completing his first year-and-a-half at Lander University he transferred to Rollins College, where he competed for just a semester. He then pursued his college coaching dream as their student assistant. 

“After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in international affairs in December 2015, I was promoted to the position of men’s assistant coach,” Cappabianca said. “Soon after, I was offered a head coaching position at Dickinson College. I accepted the position and  was the head coach for the men’s and women’s tennis teams. I returned to Rollins after Dickinson and returned to my role for another two years as the assistant coach for the men’s team.

“I wanted more exposure to higher-level players and programs, so I moved over to the University of Central Florida as a volunteer assistant for eight months. There I worked under two of the best college coaches I have ever had the privilege of working with, Bryan Koniecko and Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar. Bryan and Cristina showed how they invested their time and provided me with knowledge about competing and developing high-level tennis players. Their accountability and dedication to their team is something I will convey here at The Gasparilla Inn and Club.”

Cappabianca had his breakout moment as a college coach at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he was the assistant women’s coach for one year before moving to Boca Grande to shadow Mark and Jinx at The Gasparilla Inn and Club. 

Cappabianca also served as head tennis professional at Spring Brook Country Club, in charge of all tennis programs, the majority of private lessons and interclub teams. There he worked under Steve DeRosenburg and Martha Loring, who were his biggest mentors through his progression as a tennis professional. 

Here’s a little-known fact about our new island tennis pro … he also teaches pickleball.

“Coming into this position, I am very excited about the pickleball wave sweeping the nation,” he said. “Our members and guests are very interested in this fast-growing sport. I have been teaching pickleball for four years, and over the summer I played my first tournament and ended up winning the 4.5 singles bracket. I will continue to participate in tournaments over the summer and grow my knowledge about the sport.” 

Cappabianca said that one of the most humbling and remarkable experiences he had as a coach was working with Brittany Tagliareni, USA’s Special Olympic gold medalist. 

“Her mother, Cathy, is and will always be her coach; everyone else is just a bystander,” he explained. “I did not teach Brittany anything she did not already know, but Brittany taught me the importance of patience and accountability. Brittany and Cathy were a major part of my coaching craft. As much as I helped them as a team, they allowed me to be the best coach I could be.” 

Cappabianca said he is thankful to Mark and Jinx for the opportunity they provided him, and acknowledges that they made The Gasparilla inn Tennis Club what it is today. 

“They instilled in me the quality and detail of what goes into a five-star experience at a tennis facility,” he said. “I would also like to thank Jon Reecher for this opportunity. I am looking forward to being a part of The Gasparilla Inn family.”