Renowned tennis coach Daniel Burgess, of Freeport, died on Sept. 28. He was 67.
He was the husband of Agnes Ford-Burgess, a nurse at the Leo F. Giblyn Elementary School; the father of Shawn Conyers, Daniel Burgess Jr. and Kevin Burgess; and the grandfather of six.
Burgess was Freeport’s own tennis guru, devoting decades of his life to teaching the sport at the Daniel Burgess Indoor Tennis Academy, Freeport Indoor Tennis, the Hempstead Lake Indoor Tennis Center, the Carefree Racquet Club in North Merrick, the Point Set Racquet Club in Oceanside, and the Learning Institute of Tennis, Life Skills and Sportsmanship, a nonprofit that he founded.
“He always committed to teaching tennis and helping his community,” said Jacki Binder, a friend of almost 20 years. “It’s a terrible loss, as he touched the lives of so many people.”
Burgess fell in love with tennis when he was 12, learning from a community volunteer in his native Rainbow City, Panama.
He became an accomplished player, earning a scholarship to Long Island University in Brooklyn when he was 18. He practiced at the New York Health and Racquet Club, near the Staten Island Ferry, and at the Lincoln Plaza Racquet Club, near Times Square. Burgess offered to clean the courts in exchange for more playing time so he could practice outside of school.
Despite his best efforts, Burgess ran out of money to pay his tuition, and his scholarship was not enough to cover his studies, so he left school to play on the professional circuit.
After his professional career, he settled in Freeport and started a coaching business, the Daniel Burgess Tennis Academy, on Mill Road. He focused on teaching young tennis players, including his three sons, and his talent for coaching became evident as he taught throughout the South Shore.
“Daniel had a heart of gold and was a true volunteer,” said Kathy Miller, manager of the Carefree Racquet Club, where Burgess was a senior staff instructor. “His goal was to get as many people on the tennis court as possible, where he was always encouraging and made sure everyone had fun. He loved what he did and shined through his big smile.”
“We could literally write a book with the outpouring of messages we have received from students and players that have been touched by Danny in the decades that he has been teaching tennis,” added Ben Marks, director of junior tennis at Carefree. “He truly was a once-in-a-lifetime tennis coach.”
As he coached, Burgess became an active member of the U.S. Tennis Association, serving as a board member and president of the Eastern Section Long Island Regional. He also served the U.S. Professional Tennis Association as a certified trainer for 15 years.
For his commitment to the local tennis community, the USTA Eastern Tennis Conference honored Burgess with the Fran Osei Community Service Award in 2018, an honor named after Burgess’s late friend.
Sunny Fishkind, a fellow board member of the USTA Long Island, said Burgess was extraordinarily committed to the organization and loved working with children.
“I never met a person who didn’t love him right away,” Fishkind said. “He’d jump at any opportunity to teach.”
“He was a ray of sunshine,” said Herb Harris, another board member.
Harris recalled first meeting Burgess in 2004, when he learned even more about tennis from Burgess. The two attended matches at the U.S. Open, where they enjoyed games and conversations.
“There was always this great sunset during the evening matches, and he would say, ‘I hope that sunset never ends today,’” Harris said. “Now I hope that his sun never sets either, and that everyone can remember him.”
Last year, Burgess founded the Learning Institute of Tennis, Life Skills and Sportsmanship to foster a love of tennis, self-respect and leadership among local youth.
Through LITLSS, Burgess trained young people at the very tennis courts he helped establish at Bishop Frank O. White Park, which is less than a minute away from his Parson Avenue home.
The players, ages 4 to 16, not only learn tennis, but also they study and take part in career-building workshops and character-building activities.
Despite worries that the summer camp would be canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Burgess and his team secured grants and donations to finance the program, which ran in July and August.
On the camp’s last day, Aug. 14, Burgess told the Herald that one of his biggest joys was watching his students develop as athletes, to the point that even they were surprised by their achievements.
“It’s not just about learning to play tennis, but about working on improving yourself and seeing some growth,” Burgess said.
Visitation was scheduled for Thursday, from noon to 2 p.m., at the Hungerford & Clark Inc., Funeral Home. Funeral service were set to begin at 2 p.m. A private cremation was planned.
A GoFundMe page has been started to help the Burgess family at https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-daniel-burgess?utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link_all.