SEWANEE, Tenn. - Longtime Sewanee Tennis Coach John Shackelford recently had the thrill of a lifetime with the opportunity to meet tennis legend Roger Federer and 2003 US Open Champion Andy Roddick at an event in Austin, Texas, for The Andy Roddick Foundation (ARF).
Wyatt Harper (C'09), Sewanee's 2009 valedictorian and one of Shackelford's former players, is the Chief Financial Officer of the Roddick Foundation and was kind enough to invite Shackelford to the special event.
Currently, the Andy Roddick Foundation serves over 3,400 kids from across Austin, providing them with educational opportunities outside of the classroom.
"The most impressive thing about both men was how passionate they are about the work their foundations are doing supporting children's needs. Although they are incredible world-class athletes, they are both very down to earth, kind, genuine, and humorous young men willing to share their success with others in need," Shackelford commented. "Wyatt was very thoughtful to invite me to participate in the event."
J.J. Langston (C'89), and currently the Chief Development Officer for ARF, was responsible for much of the planning and coordination of bringing Roger Federer to Austin to support his good friend's philanthropic efforts.
"Wyatt is a perfect example of the power of Division III athletics," noted Shackelford. "He was at the very top of his class academically but also one of the hardest workers and most dedicated players I have ever coached. Although he did not attain the level of success on the court that some of his All-American teammates reached, Wyatt learned a great deal about problem-solving and collaboration with others through his athletic experience. A perfect complement to his liberal arts education at Sewanee."
Harper says that the ARF staff is targeting what kids are doing during the time they are not in school (summer, after-school, spring break). "Personally, our mission to expand opportunities for young people is profound and resonates strongly….athletics provided that outlet for me as a young person and continues to be an indispensable part of my life as an adult," said Harper.
"When I am asked questions about my background, no one asks me what it's like to graduate as the valedictorian. They ask me things like, 'What was it like playing collegiate tennis?' 'How do you take the discipline and camaraderie gained on the court and translate that in the real world?' I can say without hesitation that without Coach Shackelford's sincere commitment to my success and genuine support from him the past 13 years I've known him, I would not have achieved the success and happiness I have in my life today. The reason I am so committed and laser-focused on the work we do here at ARF is because I have seen firsthand how important and crucial the time outside the classroom is for achieving goals and sustaining happiness through the ups and downs of life."
"Watching Andy and Roger interact with the Austin crowd, and listening to the stories of their on-court battles, particularly the 2009 Wimbledon Final that Federer finally won 16-14 in the fifth set, was a real treat for someone like me that has lived tennis for so long," Shackelford concluded.
Andy Roddick noted during his conversation that losing that Wimbledon final after being so close was one of the hardest days of his professional career, but he went on to say that "losing to the greatest player of all time, on the most famous court in the world, in front of an amazing crowd of people who were chanting his name -even in defeat- could be considered by many to be a dream come true. If that is my worst day, then I have lived an incredibly charmed life."
A valuable lesson, even for a coach who has been teaching them on the Sewanee campus for 34 seasons.
Shackelford was elevated to the Director of Tennis of both the men's and women's programs in August 2018 at Sewanee. He finished his career with 551 career wins, and he is a two-time Southern Athletic Association Coach of the Year.