Wheelchair Coach Dan James
Honored By USOC
Erin Maher | October 6, 2017
Former head coach for Team USA’s Paralympic tennis team and wheelchair tennis ambassador Dan James was recently honored by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) for his outstanding contributions made to the sport of tennis in 2016.
James had served as the head coach for the Paralympic tennis team for the last 17 years, and most recently coached professional wheelchair tennis players David Wagner and Nick Taylor to medal finishes at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Wagner earned a bronze in quad singles, and the duo took home the silver in quad doubles. James also led the junior team to a second consecutive World Championship at the 2016 World Team Cup in Tokyo.
“Dan James’ work with wheelchair tennis players, as an administrator and a coach, has made the sport more visible in the U.S., inspiring hundreds of wheelchair athletes around the country. ADVERTISEMENT ” said Martin Blackman, USTA Player Development General Manager.
James, a native of Minnesota, had dreams of becoming a professional tennis player in his youth.
“I was one of those kids who wanted to go play tournaments in Europe, I had dreams of grandeur, so I had no plan,” James said. “Then reality set in; I wasn’t that good. So I became a teaching pro with absolutely no plan.”
In 1992, after he graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a bachelor’s degree in communications, James became a teaching pro at a local club. In need of professional development hours, James learned about wheelchair tennis and quickly fell in love with the sport.
James went on to volunteer for eight years as a coach. In 2003, he became the national manager of Wheelchair Tennis and served as tournament director for the US Open Wheelchair Competition, which began in 2005.
Throughout his career, James has coached five U.S. Paralympic teams and has been an integral part in exposing wheelchair tennis to a wider audience. His passion for the game has brought him to more than 30 countries, coaching teams on six contents. James has also served on the International Tennis Federation’s Wheelchair Tennis Advisory Panel for 11 years.
After the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, James retired from his role as the Paralympic coach, but he has not stayed far from the game. He attended the US Open this year, helping run the wheelchair competition and working in broadcast. He also is still engaged in his local wheelchair program in his adopted hometown of Seattle.
“You’d think that it’s the Paralympic medals, watching my athletes succeed, but it’s really watching the sport of tennis as a vehicle to change lives,” said James. “I think every person, regardless of disability or ability, should have that opportunity to use something like sport, like tennis, to foster the life lessons to become your best self.”