Steve Weaver has always had a soft spot in his heart for the nation’s Wounded Warriors, those who have been injured while dutifully serving our country. As the nation pauses this week to celebrate Veterans Day, Weaver will be preparing a booth and small tennis clinic at the VA Welcome Home Celebration on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Long Beach VA Health Care System on 7th street in Long Beach.
Weaver is looking to model what Steve Kappes has done with the annual San Diego Wounded Warriors Tennis Clinic, and his monthly clinics at El Dorado Park in Long Beach have been picking up more and more players.
“We’ve been doing our clinics coming up on two years,” said the longtime Long Beach resident Weaver. “We serve the spinal cord injury unit who are mostly in wheelchairs, and some with PTSD.”
Weaver said the LB Veterans Health Care System is made up of older guys who are getting service at the local hospital and have lived in the area for a long time. “I’ve been able to have some good relationships with these guys,” he said. “Sometimes we get a few guys, and sometimes 15. We are looking forward to the Welcome Home Celebration this weekend.”
Weaver will set up a booth and a portable net with some backstops and volunteers on-site meeting with the community on Saturday. Weaver said being there is all about creating awareness for the monthly clinics.
“We are trying to grow the size of our clinic,” he said. “In San Diego they have a large cross-section from the Naval Hospital. I’m trying to popularize tennis with the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, Los Alamitos Joint Forces Air Force Training Center and the VA Hospital here in Long Beach. We are trying to get more people interested in playing tennis who may not have picked up a racket for a while.”
Weaver said he gets a thrill out of seeing the veterans enjoying tennis. “I have two guys who started coming to the clinics a year ago and are now playing beginning tournaments,” said Weaver, who grew up in Costa Mesa and has been a solid 4.5 – and more recently a 4.0 – USTA tournament player for years.
Weaver is in his mid-50s and is a retired engineer from the Power Company. “It’s been a fun odyssey,” he said. “It takes an interesting individual to motivate these wheelchair players. I think the sport of wheelchair tennis isn’t as big as it used to be. It needs a shot in the arm.”
Weaver has a passion for the game of tennis, and even met his wife on the tennis court. He spends most weekends shuttling his three boys from tournament to tournament. It’s his work on the tennis court with players injured in the line of duty that gives him great joy.
“I think the level of joy and the exuberance of seeing these guys on the court who have been ostracized because of their disability is neat to see,” Weaver said. “It’s amazing to see. Just to watch these guys hit their first all in a long rally. It’s a boyish exuberance that you just don’t see anywhere else.”