Wheelchair Tennis Champion of the Year: Paul Walker
Paul Walker played recreational tennis most of his life, but when he was wounded in the military in 1994, he “was looking to find out how to be an athlete again.” Then in 1997, he was invited to a three-day wheelchair tennis camp led by the legendary Randy Snow. “From that point on, I started playing, then playing tournaments, then got the competitive juices flowing and kept getting better,” he says. In about four years, he threw his hat into the ring in the Open division.
Since then, he’s been one of the key wheelchair figures in the U.S. And he’s Tennis Industry’s 2014 Wheelchair Tennis Champion of the Year.
In 2002, Walker, from Lakeland, Fla., started coaching an able-bodied high school team, and in 2005 was asked to be head coach of the USA Women’s National Wheelchair Tennis Team, which he did until 2012, leading the team to two No. 4 finishes and consistently in the top five of women’s programs worldwide. Now he is a national Juniors coach, and in his 12th year of high school coaching, where he’s led his team to six straight district titles and was twice named Polk County High School Tennis Coach of the Year. He regularly coaches for the USTA and ITF at wheelchair tennis camps and has a passion for working with injured service men and women.
“Paul is the very definition of a dedicated wheelchair tennis advocate,” says Dan James, the USTA national manager of Wheelchair Tennis. “The sport is lucky to have him carrying its torch.”
— Peter Francesconi
Tips for success
- First and foremost, you have to love the sport and make it your passion.
- Find ways to make it fun, even when you’re being competitive. Keep a sense of humor.
- Don’t lose touch with the grassroots.
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.
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