2009 Wheelchair Tennis Champion of the Year: Dean Oba
Talk to people about Dean Oba of Salt Lake City, and certain words keep coming up: “phenomenal,” “generous,” “amazing,” “inspirational.”
“He’s the complete package,” says Linda Vincent, executive director of the Utah Tennis Association. “He’s been a mentor and coach and has volunteered enormous amounts of his time to help work with wheelchair tennis players. We’re so grateful.”
“He’s just an all-around amazing guy,” adds Dan James, the USTA’s National Director of Wheelchair Tennis. “A genuinely great person.”
Oba fits all of those descriptions. And to the honors and accolades, he can now add another: RSI’s 2009 Wheelchair Tennis Champion.
Last year, Oba received the David L. Freed Lifetime Service Award from the USTA Intermountain Section as the driving force behind wheelchair tennis in Utah. He started playing wheelchair tennis 30 years ago and is an accomplished tournament player, but his passion for the sport runs deep.
Oba has been instrumental in developing wheelchair tennis programs in the Salt Lake City area, and he’s spent countless hours helping kids and adults. “Along with other groups, we’ve developed this really nice program,” says Oba. “We have a great network of groups and people that have really been supportive.
“Our philosophy is if someone is going to take a risk and come out and play, we want to make sure they have an enjoyable time,” he adds. “Fun is a huge component of what we do.”
“Dean is one of those people who touches your life,” says Patricia Chien, the USTA Intermountain’s recreational tennis coordinator. “When you talk to him, you get inspired.”
Tips for success
- Make sure people have fun right from the start.
- Look for different ways to recruit new players. Oba also coaches wheelchair basketball and pulls players into tennis from that.
- Develop relationships with other groups. Oba maintains ties with rehab centers, tennis facilities, and civic organizations, such as the Rotary Club — all of which help the wheelchair program.
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.