From coaching and teaching middle school students to inspiring seniors to step on a court for the first time, “Coach Dick” has time and again used tennis as a platform to build a sense of community in Summit.
Dick, who was designated Eastern’s Leslie J. FitzGibbon Tennis Man of the Year in 2007 and New Jersey Volunteer of the Year in 2011, didn’t play tennis growing up. After serving during World War II, Walther was introduced to the sport in his 30s. He became passionate about teaching and growing the game in 1985.
“It was retirement that triggered my interest in tennis,” said Dick. “I’ve been playing and working on projects in the community for the last 30 years.”
About 10 years ago, Summit’s Board of Recreation was set to destroy many of their 16 public tennis courts. This led Dick and a group of concerned citizens to band together and create the Summit Tennis Association.
Their effort has grown the game immeasurably. In fact, the number of people playing has more than tripled to 9,000 this past year alone!
He considers another highlight to be coaching and inspiring seniors to play tennis for the first time with 10 and Under Tennis equipment. In fact, he recently was awarded the USTA’s Seniors’ Service Award for his efforts.
"Seniors generally feel they are too old and too slow to play the game," said Dick. "But we've found that the slower bouncing, low compression balls make it easier for them to play tennis." Due to combining the USTA’s technology with his love of tennis, Dick has helped ensure that many other seniors can begin playing across the country.
Dick has also coached in New Jersey schools. “One of the best things was when I was coaching at Kent Place Girls School,” he said. “Coaching has been so important to me over the years. My philosophy has always been to make tennis a fun experience that has a lasting impact so that kids want to continue with the game.”
According to Cindy Stern, who has collaborated with Dick through the Summit Tennis Association,“He’s always been enthusiastic about having the average person play and making sure they enjoy the game.”