Ron Shields met the two most important people in his life because of tennis.
The Longboat Key tennis pro met his wife when she was learning how to play, and Shields' best man was his doubles partner starting in 1998.
As Shields, 62, now enters a new stage in his career, he hopes to bring people together through tennis so it can impact their lives the way it did his.
“Tennis creates an environment in which you can develop and maintain long-term friendships,” said Shields.
After retiring from coaching tennis hands on, Shields published his first book, “Smart Doubles,” in August. It covers his philosophy on teaching recreational tennis players how to play doubles tennis.
“The main purpose of the book is to create more interest and excitement about tennis and specifically the game of doubles,” said Shields. “‘Smart Doubles’ is not just a book. It is a program that can be utilized to create more access to tennis, more excitement about tennis and opportunities for more people to learn, improve, excel and benefit.”
“Smart Doubles” is a time-tested program that Shields developed while working in Atlanta. It's for new or returning recreational tennis players. He uses techniques that enforce specific shots, positioning and strategies into muscle memory.
“Ron’s Riffs,” memorable phrases Shields thought of that describe different plays, are what he is most well-known for. Shields emphasizes that his program will help people think less while they play and enjoy the game more by relying on muscle memory and practice. His book is a guide to learning his thought process behind it.
Shields’ methods allow people to open up to the social aspect of the sport, especially while participating in doubles. Engaging in a game of doubles gives people the chance to bond together while prioritizing physical activities.
“My goal with this book is to impact the community because ‘Smart Doubles’ is a program of empowering clubs and facilities and growing tennis in the community,” said Shields. “I have specific clinics and specific things to do that will invite people to make it social and make it interesting and fun.”
Shields, who is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, said tennis was his go-to activity in his childhood.
In high school, he played varsity tennis and was ranked in the top 10 for boys singles matches. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1983 and taught tennis part time to support himself through college. In 1986, he continued to teach and was certified by the United States Professional Tennis Association in 1992.
Shields relocated to Atlanta in 1993 where he was a teaching pro for 11 years. In the summer of 2004, he moved to the Sarasota area and started working at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. Shields taught on Longboat for 19 years.
This June, Shield was awarded the USPTA Professional of The Year in Florida. He's since retired from coaching and giving lessons to make time for the next stage in his career: being an author.
“Pickleball has taken over courts and we don't have anything against pickleball, but it's kind of like tennis has gone a little bit south because it's not handled properly through clubs and stuff,” said Brenda Shields, Ron's wife. “I think that's what really pulled his heart for the book. He wants to put the spark back into tennis.”
Ron Shields has started writing his second book called “Enrichment of Life Begins with Love.” It will cover how he started his tennis journey and how it has built him into the person he is today.
Ron and Brenda are also the Sarasota directors for Tennis for Fun. In partnership with Special Olympics, they host free weekly clinics for children and adults with disabilities.
Shields will be holding book signings for “Smart Doubles” at the Market on Longboat Key on Dec. 11, Jan. 15, Feb. 12 and April 15 at Town Center Green.
“When I got started in tennis, what drove me was the people who supported me and enabled me to grow into a tennis player and as a person as well,” said Shields. “Tennis has taught me about self-love, unconditional love, compassion. My new book will touch on the topic of love from my perspective and how it has come about through tennis and through relationships. Tennis is a lifetime sport that builds on so many different things. I was lucky that I did get involved and managed to excel at tennis.”
Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.