Induction Year: 2021
A 30-ft. fall at the age of 20 resulted in a spinal cord injury and complete paraplegia for Wayne Leavitt. However, it was less than a year later when he became involved in disability sports and was on his way to using his disability become a role model, mentor and coach for aspiring wheelchair athletes – a passion that continues today, more than 50 years later.
In 1969 he helped start the first wheelchair basketball team in the Dallas area. That early team helped North Texas grow into a hotbed of wheelchair basketball, spawning multiple community and collegiate teams that have won many national championships.
It was 1980 when Randy Snow brought wheelchair tennis to the Dallas area. He and Bill Hammett gathered disabled athletes together and started a wheelchair tennis program. Wayne raised his arm to be a part of it. The following year the group hosted the first wheelchair tennis tournament in Texas, and Wayne played in it. Now known as the Texas Open Wheelchair Championships, the event lives on as the oldest continuing held tournament in wheelchair tennis history.
That first tournament led to Wayne setting the record for playing the US Open
National Wheelchair Championships for 25 consecutive years. While he’s lost track of how many tournaments he has won, he knows he’s played in 20 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, and he remembers defeating the World Number One, Ricky Moller of The Netherlands, twice in 1997. He’s accumulated eight USTA National Championship gold balls and was Runner Up seven times. One very memorable event was being selected to be the Team USA Paralympic coach for the Atlanta games in 1996. They won Men’s Singles Silver, Men’s Doubles Gold and Women’s Doubles Silver.
The list of his playing/coaching accomplishments goes on and on, but his continued contributions to the sport of wheelchair tennis are even more impressive. USTA Texas honored both his playing and dedication to improving and promoting wheelchair tennis by awarding him the prestigious Randy Snow Community Service Award. He’s also won the Dallas Wheelchair Tennis Club’s Randy Snow Spirit of the Sport Award and the USTA National Community Service Lifetime Member Award.
After six rotator cuff surgeries and two complete shoulder replacements, he
continues to serve and be an active participant on many boards and spends
countless hours recruiting and counseling potential players. During the Texas Open, year after year, he can be found in the wheelchair repair tent.
It is universally known that wheelchair tennis would not be what it is, in Texas or worldwide, without the work Wayne did to develop the sport from the very