Ron Walker Recognized
Erin Maher | April 1, 2018
Ron Walker of Atlanta was recently honored by USTA Georgia with the Wheelchair Excellence Award.
Walker’s daughter Jamie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months and began to use a wheelchair.
Walker and his wife enrolled Jamie in therapeutic horseback riding clinics to help her strength and mobility.
In 1989, Walker attended a wheelchair tennis exhibition, igniting his curiosity for the sport, and wanting to get his daughter involved.
By spring of 1990, Walker, who was a recreational tennis player, held the first wheelchair tennis clinic at Blackburn Tennis Center in Atlanta.
“It was kind of trial and error for a few years,” said Walker on his first few years teaching tennis.
Saturday’s quickly transformed for the Walker family, with the first half of the day spent at the stables riding, and the second half on the court, taking a shot at wheelchair tennis.ADVERTISEMENT
Walker wore many hats as head of the tennis clinic. Saturday afternoons he was on the court, shagging balls and running drills. The rest of the week, Walker was promoting the program, from putting informational flyers on cars to fundraising and being an ambassador for the sport in the community.
Since that first clinic in 1990, Walker’s program has grown exponentially.
It started with seven youths and has grown into approximately 50 wheelchair players, of all ages and levels.
“Seeing how their confidence improves,” said Walker, on his favorite part of coaching the clinic. “Any sport breaks down a lot of barriers. That’s probably the best thing.”
After 27 years at the helm of the program, Walker stepped down in 2017, passing the baton to Rob Popelka.
While he may no longer run the program, Walker’s impact on the sport of wheelchair tennis and all those involved in the Georgia community is indelible.