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Wednesday Coaches Corner Guest Post: Bryan Shelton

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today I have my first guest post for the Wednesday Coaches Corner. This article was written by T.A. Niles for Suite101.com. T.A.'s love of tennis definitely makes his work perfect for Black Tennis Pro's. I hope to have more of his work here in the future. You can read his full profile here.

Bryan Shelton Coaches NCAA Winner
First Black Head Coach to Win NCAA Div. I Championship in Tennis

Black Tennis Pro's Coaches CornerThe first African American, former USTA National Coach Bryan Shelton, guides Georgia Tech's Lady Yellow Jackets to NCAA Women's Div. I Tennis Title.

Earlier this year there was quite a bit of fanfare when Tony Dungy and Lovey Smith made it to the SuperBowl as the first Black, National Football League (NFL) coaches to get to the SuperBowl. Dungy received considerable accolades for being the first Black coach to win the Championship game. Given the notoriety of the SuperBowl and the prominent places that both “race” and the game of football play in US culture, it is no surprise that Dungy was lauded for his accomplishment.

An Accomplishment Worthy of Recognition

Tennis, particularly college tennis, is not the sporting and economic juggernaut that the NFL is, but being the first Black coach to win a Division I tennis title is a feat that ought applauded every bit as much as winning the SuperBowl. Bryan Shelton, the Head Coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, is the first African American to coach a Division I tennis team to the national title. Unlike Dungy who emerged victorious in a league with only 30 teams and half-dozen Black coaches, Shelton triumphed in a league with over 300 teams, 64 of which participated in the NCAA tournament. There were only 2 other Black coaches in the tournament.

Georgia Tech Upsets UCLA in Final

Shelton guided the lady Yellow Jackets to a 4-2 championship win over the UCLA Bruins, a perennial tennis power and one of three California teams in the team competition semi-finals. It was the first time that Georgia Tech had advanced to the finals of the NCAA tournament, and they captured the title in their first effort. For any who has followed Bryan Shelton’s progress since his retirement from the ATP men’s tennis tour, this accomplishment is no surprise. Prior to assuming the position of Head Coach at Georgia Tech, Shelton had established himself as a premier coach while serving as a National Coach for the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

Yellow Jackets Rise with Shelton's Arrival

To support the wisdom of the hire, Georgia Tech made its first appearance in the NCAA tennis tournament during Shelton’s first season as Head Coach. The lady Yellow Jackets achieved a ranking of No. 29 that year, the highest year-end ranking the team had achieved at that point. Prior to his arrival, the team had never played in the season-ending NCAA championship tournament. Sweet-16 appearances in 2005 and 2006 heralded Georgia Tech’s potential as a challenger for the title that they claimed this year.

Repeating as champions will be difficult for both Bryan Shelton and Tony Dungy, but in a country still struggling to escape the chains of racialization and racism, it is still an accomplishment when a Black coach wins a National Championship in collegiate sports for the first time. Hopefully there will come a time in the United States when the color of the coach’s skin will matter less than the color of the team’s uniform.

Posted by Shelia

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