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Bob Shafer

Community Tennis Spotlight – Bob Shafer

Bob Shafer has enjoyed 40-plus years in the tennis industry but says he’s ready to start “pulling back on just about everything” in the coming year.

IMG_0097 His Linked In profile puts it this way: “As of Nov. 7, 2014 I have retired! Looking forward to the ‘fruits of my labor!’ ”

But if you know the 68-year-old Lake Forest resident Shafer and you’re a tennis fan in Southern California, you know you will likely still see Shafer in 2015 around tennis venues and events like the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, The Ojai and the Wheelchair Masters international event that takes place in November near his home in Mission Viejo.

“I’ve been lucky because my life in tennis as a career has been my vocation, and not just my avocation,” Shafer said. “I’ve enjoyed it all, especially all the great people I’ve met in the game over the years.”

Shafer started working for Wilson Sporting Goods back in 1971 and spent 32 years with the company. He then worked for the Active Network as a consultant for two years then eight years full-time. His biggest accomplishment was bringing USTA’s Tennis Link to Active for managing the registration for leagues and tournaments.

When tennis was booming in the 1970s, Shafer had a front-Brad Parks and Shaferrow seat and saw all of the great champions like Jimmy Connors, Eliot Teltscher, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang, Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport and the Williams sisters before they became stars.

“Back then you had to play the local tournaments to work your way up to the Sectionals to be designated by your section to play the Nationals,” Shafer said. “The Williams sisters were unique, I gave them racquets at 7 and 9, much to the angst of the company because Wilson’s racquet program didn’t start until you were 12. I just believed in the two girls. Not sure how much of it was their dad Richard that talked me into it.”

Shafer is not worried about staying busy. He and his wife of nearly 39 years Dianna are planning to travel to Scotland and Ireland next year, just like they did spending three weeks in Europe last year.

He will also reserve time for his son Scott, a men’s and women’s assistant coach for NCAA Division II University of Nebraska-Kearney, and his four-year-old granddaughter Zia. In addition visits to his daughter Melissa who lives in Arizona. Shafer is an avid downhill skier and it’s something he’s been doing for more than 60 years. He also loves to fly fish.

You likely won’t find him on a tennis court. “I maybe played three times in 2014,” Shafer said. “I was rated a 4.0 once, but I was probably closer to a 3.5 now.  He laughingly admits “I do look pretty good warming up, but it stops there”.

ShaIMG_0080-webfer said his strength was in team sports growing up and he played Division I football and basketball in college for Utah State before transferring to NAIA Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

He had a tryout with the Oakland Raiders before a knee & shoulder injury ended his football career. That led to his job as the Wilson Sales and Marketing Manager in Los Angeles for professional sports and working with the Rams, Angels, Lakers, Dodgers, Padres and Chargers.

Soon after he started, the man in charge of tennis at Wilson had a heart attack and Shafer was summoned to his boss’ office.

“He told me I needed to drop everything and go on the road to promote the next big thing,” Shafer said. “I had never opened a can of tennis balls before, but I finally figured it out. I told him I don’t know many things about tennis, except I know that tennis balls are white. And these things are bright yellow. And he said, ‘yeah, that’s the new product.’ ”

Shafer went on to explain that Lamar Hunt and the WTC gets credit for the yellow ball because it was hard to see the white ball on TV. Lamar came to Wilson and mandated the use of the yellow ball.

“And the players just hated it,” Shafer said. “They said they looked like grapefruits and they didn’t spin right and they were wobbling in the air on the toss – just any kind of excuse. And none of it was true. It was just their optical persuasion.”

After serving as a territory sales manager and then a regional sales manager in So. Cal. Shafer and his family moved to Chicago, Wilson’s corporate offices handling Tennis Promotions worldwide until 1981. Shafer wanted out of Chicago, they wanted to get back to California, so in 1981 a new position of Western Regional Sales and Marketing Manager was created.

A year after he moved to SoCal, Shafer became a SCTA Board Member, Section Delegate and currently serves on the Executive Committee. He has also done two, two-year terms on the USTA Nominating Committee.

One of his most memorable assignments was he ran the tournament desk for the Community College division for The Ojai at the Cabrillo Racquet Club where he got to know Wayne and Kathy Bryan and met the twins as pre-teens, one of his lasting friendships.

Shafer said his fondest tennis memory thus far, was giving the International Tennis Hall of Fame induction speech for his good friend Brad Parks, considered the founding father of wheelchair tennis, in 2010.

Awards Shafer has received include: Service Award from the Orange County Tennis Assoc. (2001); President’s Award from the Texas Tennis Coaches Assoc. (2002); Service Award California Community College Tennis Coaches Assoc. (1996 & 2002) and Lifetime Service Award Ojai Tennis Club (2004).

 

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