By Thomas Albano
Ed Torres attended Brown University for one semester in 1950, but received a draft notice for the Korean War and could not enroll the following semester because his appeal for a deferment was not approved until the end of January. That’s when a friend recommended Rider, which at the time had a trimester system, allowing him to join after the appeal was processed.
Nearly 65 years later, Torres, who has seen time at Rider as both a player and head coach for tennis, will finally say goodbye to his career at the university.
“I was planning on coming back next year to make it 20 — that would make it 20 years coaching, 60 years in tennis — and then I thought ‘Numbers are a stupid reason to stay,’” Torres said. “I’m still in very good health. I’m 82. I play tennis all the time, kept in shape, I have no illness. Why don’t I get out now while I’m still healthy?”
Torres grew up near a tennis club in Spring Lake, on the Jersey Shore.
“There was a tennis club right on the ocean with 10 courts,” Torres said. “My father and uncle were the club champions there in the 1920s, so I grew up at that club. That’s where I learned to play tennis.”
At the club, Torres learned to play under professional guidance and participated in tournaments and team matches. He played practically every day when he was younger, which helped him become the top-ranked tennis player at Asbury Park High School.
Torres credits growing up in the tennis club as the foundation for his success.
“In those days, there weren’t any indoor courts and you weren’t going to learn playing in the public parks,” Torres said. “I was lucky. I played tennis everyday.”
As a tennis player for Rider during the 1950s he compiled a 43-1 overall record. His only loss came during his junior year in a match against St. Peter’s, and only when the odds were stacked against him.
Torres had been out for a week with illness and decided to play the match after only one practice. The coach wanted him to play a lesser-ranked opponent in that match since he was just getting healthy.
However, Torres was not going to back down.
“I said, ‘No, I don’t want to play No. 2. I played No. 1 for four years of high school and I’ll play the guy,’” Torres said. “The guy beat me, but the next year I came back and I beat him. That loss was my only loss, but I didn’t want to play No. 2. If I’m going to lose, I’ll lose at No. 1.”
After completing his college education, Torres was drafted to fight in the Korean War. He served in the U.S. Navy for two years on the USS Tweedy, a destroyer escort.
After his service in the military, Torres worked in the banking industry in Toms River, N.J. for two years, but he did not feel the same enjoyment as he had being in athletics.
Torres’ friends encouraged him to become a teacher, a profession that was highly sought after because of the number of baby boomers who were now students.
He received an “emergency certificate” from Monmouth University, and then a job at Neptune Middle School that lasted 35 years. He taught Spanish for his first 15 years, and then spent another 20 years there as vice principal before retiring in 1994.
In addition, Torres served as the tennis coach for three years at Neptune.
Less than a year later, Rider called Torres and asked him to become the new head coach for the tennis program.
“They told me that the coach had resigned,” Torres said. “It was the end of August. I said, ‘Well, I’ve never coached a college team, but this is my alma matter, they got me that job down at Toms River. I really loved Rider when I was there. They were very, very good to me. So, I will take the job.’ [The caller] said ‘Thank God, because practice starts next week.’”
Torres thought he would only stay at Rider for a couple of years, but that quickly turned into a 19-year career, during which he compiled 224 victories.
As a coach, however, he would use his experience as a teacher and vice-principal to stress the importance of academics and good grades.
“My emphasis, and I preached this for 19 years, was that you’re at Rider to get your education,” Torres said.
Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams have had success academically. For this past season, six tennis players — seniors Nick Lubold, Rollie Malfitano, Kyle Stratton and Kim Leder, and juniors Sean Sweeney and Alison Noll — were recognized by the MAAC with All-Academic Honors.
Lubold described Torres as someone who got to know his players on a deeper level than the average coach-player relationship.
“The thing about Coach is that he takes the time to get to know you and really cares about what’s going on in your life on a personal level,” Lubold said. “The most valuable thing he taught me from a tennis perspective is to never get down on yourself, and move on. Forget about the point that just happened, and play in the moment. From a personal level, the most valuable thing Coach has indirectly taught me is that no one is better than anyone else; that is to say, treat everyone with respect and love, because life is short.”
Torres still plays tennis and has had a lot of national experience in his older years. He has participated in the New Jersey Senior Olympic Games, where he has won 15 gold medals and three silver medals. In addition, Torres won a gold medal in singles play at the 1996 National Senior Games in the 60-65-year-old category in Tuscon, Ariz. Torres plans to possibly pursue play in the Senior Olympic Games again post-retirement.
In addition, Torres has worked as a tennis instructor at Fairway Mews in Spring Lake, as well as a tennis pro at the Ocean City Beach Club, the Monmouth Beach Club and the Spring Lake Bath and Tennis Club. Torres plans to continue to teach tennis upon retirement.
Torres’ belief and example in never quitting has influenced his players, such as Leder, both on and off the court.
“In four years, Torres taught me to never quit,” Leder said. “When I came to Rider, I started to get injured. First my back, then a horrible ankle sprain, and finally my wrist. I was out for two consecutive spring semesters and my final spring semester I shouldn’t really have been playing. It was the type of life lesson that proves to be something I can put to the test in my life. Even if I’m hurting, tired, in pain, not supposed to be standing on my own two feet, I still need to keep going.”
With Torres now stepping down from the reins of Rider tennis, Leder believes his successor will have some pretty big shoes to fill, but has faith that only more success will follow in years to come.
“I think the future of the tennis teams here at Rider will have something to follow,” Leder said. “A huge chapter in Rider athletics has closed, and what lies beyond the pages of future seasons will be nothing but greatness. I’m excited to see what legacy Coach has left behind and what the future holds.”