It’s been more than 35 years since Ronald Reagan stated, during his first inaugural address, “Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.” We discovered heroes in every state, starting with the determined 69-year-old who won a match at an ITF Pro Circuit event earlier this year in the Alabama town of Pelham, and culminating with the coach who has overcome multiple sclerosis to build a winning program at the University of Wyoming. Their compelling stories of courage, perseverance and achievement demonstrate that the message delivered by our 40th President rings as true today as it did then.
Garland “Gar” Ott isn’t your typical tennis coach.
He has introduced hundreds of children to the game in his hometown of Charles Town, WV, yet he’s never taken a lesson himself. In fact, he didn’t pick up a racquet until he went to college at nearby Shepherd University in 1958.
Charles Town had just one tennis court at the time, and when the city installed lights, it became a hangout for local students. It wasn’t long before Ott was showing up to play at noon and leaving when the lights turned off at 10:00 p.m.
“I wasn’t very good at all at first,” Ott says. “I never had any instruction, but I learned from watching people play. My technique still isn’t textbook, but it’s about making it work.”