Art Richards serves a smorgasbord of tennis in Rotonda West, the beach community in Charlotte County, Florida, just north of Ft. Myers.
Tennis for beginners and advanced, both children and adults. Adaptive tennis (for deaf, sight-impaired, blind and wheelchair players), Masters Tennis and POP Tennis on short courts for older (and younger) players, red-orange-green ball tennis for young beginners, featuring racquets of all sizes. “Rally the Family” formats for family play. You name it, he has it.
Richards says the informal “easy-on, easy-off” format encourages players to jump in and leave whenever they want.
“I encourage all players, ‘Don’t be afraid to step outside the box’ and try,” Richards says.
It’s blind tennis where Richards has really broken ground. The long-time teaching pro boasts the only blind tennis program in Florida held on public courts at Rotonda Community Park. He uses different size and color sound-emitting balls, and has studied the work of Japan’s Blind Tennis Association, which organizes hundreds of players competing in tournaments throughout the country.
It was in 2015 that Richards decided to add tennis for the blind to his menu of tennis options.
“I was thumbing through a issue of Harbor Magazine and came across a story titled Blind Tennis-Playing by Ear, written by USPTA pro Jack Beardsworth out of Punta Gorda,” he said. “I did some research and said, ‘Now there’s something that will fit right in with my deaf/Hard-of-hearing and wheelchair programs.’ I did the first clinic here in Charlotte County at the Rotonda Community Park in October of 2015, and that started blind tennis here and ultimately elsewhere in Florida.”
Money, says Richards, is not his driver.