Roll With It Monthly Paul Walker: a Coach in Full 

August 01, 2017

When it comes to awards and recognition, Wheelchair coach Paul Walker is an elite category of his own. It would be too easy to list all of his accolades and write generically about his professional accomplishments, so instead we would like to provide a more humanistic portrait of him. Recently, Paul was interviewed by the USTA Wheelchair staff while at the Wheelchair Tennis Junior Camp in Birmingham, Ala. The interview began like any other, with a list of questions, but it quickly morphed into a genuine conversation that flowed from one topic to another. What it revealed, above all, is a a man who just loves coaching. 


One thing that makes Paul stand out from the other USTA wheelchair coaching staff is that he, like the players, is also in a chair. Jason Harnett said, “Although I have been involved in Wheelchair Tennis for 20 years, I look to Paul as a mentor. He is my go-to guy for many specific issues, mostly because he too is in a chair and thus lives this life on a daily basis. In essence, this gives him more street cred.”


Paul was injured in a parachuting accident in 1994 while serving as a commissioned officer in the United States Army. He is a 1986 graduate from Florida Southern College, having earned a B.A. in history and political science.  He received his commission in 1988 and retired as a Captain in 1995.  He is a proud veteran of Operation Desert Storm, and finds it humorous that the last unit he served in was the 2nd Armored Division (nicknamed Hell on Wheels).  His experience leading soldiers has engendered within him a great sense of duty, responsibility and professionalism that is apparent in how he approaches almost every task.  


Paul began his tennis coaching career in 2002 at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland, Fla., where he coached for 13 years. During his early coaching career, Paul began coaching at numerous wheelchair tennis camps around the country.  In 2005, Dan James, then national manager of Wheelchair Tennis invited Paul to coach the U.S. women at the World Team Cup in the Netherlands. He has been a dedicated member of the national staff since then.  Around 2008-09, Paul began coaching USTA league players in Polk County.  He still coaches a dedicated group of women who he affectionately calls the PWTA.  This fall he will begin his third year as an assistant coach to Trish Riddell with the Florida Southern women’s team. 


Paul has always been an athlete. During his college days, he played baseball for Florida Southern. After his accident and prior to his subsequent career as a tennis coach, he worked his way through the ranks of the USTA wheelchair tennis divisions and ultimately became a top men’s open player in the U.S. Although he is one of the main characters in wheelchair tennis worldwide, he spends the majority of his coaching time with the able-bodied tennis community. 


Paul’s accomplishments in tennis are well known and documented, but there is far more to him than tennis. First, anyone who knows him well would consider him to be one of the most naturally funny people they know. He has a comedic wit about him that is always uplifting. His humor goes hand in hand with a positive and contagious personality. He truly believes in developing people to their highest potential. 


Paul enjoys whistling and is a lover of late-night movie watching. His interest in history and political science goes hand in hand with his movie interests. He enjoys films that have a socio-historical context and spends many nights indulging this hobby, unless he can find a Boston Red Sox game on TV.  Paul admits he has a problem being a whacko Red Sox fanatic. He is happily married to Terri Walker, also an army veteran and former officer who outranks Paul in every way, and ended her 10-year active duty career as a Major. They have two boys. Jake, their eldest, is starting college this fall. Danny is 11 years old and also enjoys sports just like his dad. Their cat, Pepper, and dog , Mocsie, round out the family. 


Asked where he sees himself in 10 years, he replied: “Ten years from now I see myself out of coaching to the extent I am in it now. I am getting older and the physical demands can be tough. I will miss it, but I’ll have nothing but great memories of the many remarkable players I have coached over the years. I want to see both of my boys living on their own and enjoying life.”




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