50 Years, 50 Heroes: Charlie Pasarell, 1975

by: Blair Henley | November 29, 2018

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For our sixth annual Heroes Issue, we’ve selected passages from the last 50 years of Tennis Magazine and TENNIS.com—starting in 1969 and ending in 2018—to highlight 50 worthy heroes. Each passage acknowledges the person as they were then; each subsequent story catches up with the person, or highlights their impact, as they are now. It is best summed up with a quote from the great Arthur Ashe, that was featured on the cover of the November/December issue of this magazine in 2015: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

“I mean, I know how to run,” Pasarell says. “At least, I thought I did.” But Henry Hines, a former world-class sprinter and long jumper, showed him how he was running with his feet turned out, making chicken tracks. And, Pasarell adds, “He showed me how two or three little steps were faster than the one big stride I was accustomed to taking.” - Tennis Magazine / May 1975

“The bigger the challenge, the harder I try,” says Hall of Famer Charlie Pasarell. “I always look at the glass half full.”

Pasarell’s positivity has helped him become one of the sport’s greatest innovators. He fought for Open tennis and assisted in the formation of the ATP. In 1969, he partnered with entrepreneur  Sheridan Snyder and UCLA teammate Arthur Ashe to create the National Junior Tennis League, in an effort to bring tennis and education to under-resourced youth. Today, the NJTL reaches more than 200,000 children in 350 chapters.

Pasarell’s legacy has also grown alongside the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. He worked to keep the event in California in the early 1980s, and as tournament founder, has helped build a world-class men’s and women’s showcase each March.

The 74-year-old is showing no signs of a slowdown. He assists with hurricane recovery in his native Puerto Rico, works with his local NJTL chapter and serves on the committee for growing the USTA Billie Jean King Girls’ National Championships. He has also become more involved with UCLA, as the university honors Ashe’s legacy.

“Billie Jean King and Arthur have been great inspirations to me,” Pasarell says. “Thinking about them and what they did makes me think I need to give more.”

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