Family and friends gathered at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Tarrytown, New York, on March 14th, 2014, to celebrate Bob Callaway’s induction into the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame. Steve Baird, Hall of Fame Nominating Committee Chair, presented the green jacket to Callaway, one of the first platform tennis professionals.
The following is excerpted from Steve Baird’s introduction speech.
We are here tonight to honor a very special person, a trail blazer who dedicated almost his entire career to platform tennis. No one has ever done as much, on such a full-time scale, with such longevity as Bob Callaway. At his core, first and foremost, Bob was a teacher. It was not about him, it was about his students. He cared deeply about them and their progress.
Bob was arguably “the first paddle pro.” He began in the late 1960s and retired in 2012 at age 78. Today, there are well over 200 paddle pros nationwide. He paved the way… these pros today are flourishing and providing vital leadership, energy, and growth.
He was a top 16 player on the 1970s tour and later became a National Senior Champion. He was known for his signature lefty kick-spin serve (a truly nasty shot). But tournament play was not where Bob was destined for greatness. It would be in a far broader realm. Bob was also an entrepreneur and risk taker who opened the first commercial Paddle Center in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1972. For ten years, this was a gathering place for men, women and children from all over Fairfield and Westchester. Bob literally introduced the game to thousands of people at this first public paddle center.
As Bob’s career progressed in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, he served with great distinction as the Head Paddle Pro at the New Canaan Field Club and Wee Burn Country Club, and taught a number of other local clubs including the Greenwich Field Club. He also began to consult in the executive presentation skills field and made regular trips to teach his corporate clients in New York City and Connecticut. This made for very long days… as in when he wrapped up a seminar with business executives, he then had to dash off to a 7:00 PM the car or the bathroom on the train.
Bob was also an author, writing a book titled Platform Tennis. It was an overview of the game, its history, with insights into each stroke. It served as a very sophisticated teaching guide and 225 pages no less. He was a founding member of the PPTA and an APTA Board member. He played a vital role in stewarding APTA Rules and recruiting and training umpires. He conducted certifications programs over many years. He was always generous with his time whether it be traveling to the R.J. Reilly Paddle camps at Jackson Hole or helping lead the Viking Junior Kick-Off Academy. Bob’s enthusiasm for the game was contagious and this positive attitude made learning fun. In many ways, he became an ambassador for the sport. He coached many National Champions at various stages of their careers (collectively these individuals won over 60 National Championships). Many of these players are in the audience tonight. They’re here to honor Bob, for all his support, his guidance, and his friendship.
As one of his protégé’s said, “Bob worked a lifetime to grow platform tennis – he did this by connecting and inspiring others. Bob’s legacy will always be about the people who he helped to get involved in the game.”
And now, he is the recipient of the APTA’s highest honor, the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame award to Bob Callaway.
Source: Platform Tennis Magazine, Vol. 15, Issue 5, April/May 2014