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Moore Wrote the Book on Wheelchair Tennis

Wheelchair Tennis Players
Wheelchair Tennis Players

Wheelchair tennis can be hard to describe—but picture players on a regulation-sized court.

Everything is the same as traditional tennis—the net, the rackets,the emotions—but the players are in wheelchairs. Their chairs are small and nimble and the players zip around in them, popping balls over the net from every corner of the court.

In this clip from Wimbledon in 2015, the player tips forward in his chair and balances on one hand to volley the ball back over the net.

As part of WGCU’s Move to Include initiative, I spoke to wheelchair tennis pioneer Ballard Moore.

He didn’t invent the sport, but he helped analyze the movements for wheelchair tennis players, so they could play their best game. Moore is now 85, and I spoke to him from his summer home in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

“I studied the game of wheelchair tennis kinesiologically,’ Moore said. “I had some video and I would study it. From there, I wrote a book. Randy and I wrote it together.”

Randy is Randy Snow, whom Moore coached for 12 years. Snow was arguably the best wheelchair tennis player in the history of the sport. Aside from winning numerous tournaments, Snow was an Olympic medalist and went on to be the first Paralympian to be inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame.

Moore was a college tennis coach when he met Snow, back in the 1980s, The sport was in its infancy and none of the Grand Slam tournaments like Wimbledon or the US Open even featured wheelchair players.

Moore and Snow’s book is Wheelchair Tennis: Myth to Reality. And it made the sport accessible to players all over the world.

“The book opened up a door for many people who were in wheelchairs that may not have any idea how they could play,” Moore said. “They would actually read that book and put into action the mobility of the wheelchair according to tennis. That book helped stimulate wheelchair people to get into the sport.”

The sport’s popularity grew worldwide. Eventually all four Grand Slam tournaments added wheelchair tennis to their lineups. Moore and Snow traveled the world teaching people in wheelchairs to play tennis, Snow becoming as beloved a teacher as he had been a player.

Although Snow died in 2009, Moore still teaches tennis—in Naples, Florida, in the winter and Wisconsin in the summers. And after all these years, he still gets the same questions.

“Whenever anyone hears that I teach wheelchair tennis, they ask, how can anyone play in a wheelchair and my answer is… you just got to see it.”

Support for Move to Include comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.