Wheelchair tennis Champion of the Year: Dan James
A childhood friend’s illness and a desire to do more helped shape the path of Dan James’ wheelchair coaching career. Rolf Jacobson, both a friend and mentor to James, was a top junior player. Diagnosed with cancer at age 15, Jacobson lost both his legs but continued playing in a wheelchair, partnering with James in doubles.
Later, as a young club pro, James was covering a clinic and was stunned to arrive on court to see 10 wheelchair players waiting. “I taught the best able-bodied tennis clinic for 30 minutes,” he says, laughing. “Then, the players took me under their wing. I got in the chair, fell out of it 10 times but fell in love with the sport.”
After 18 years with the USTA, most recently as national manager of Wheelchair Tennis, James left his post past fall, but his impact remains. “My hope was to help people understand that these players are legitimate athletes,” he says. “Get past the inspiration, stop seeing the chair and start seeing the tennis player.”
— Peg Connor
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