Harlon Matthews Says Don’t Fight Your Disability, Use It To Your Advantage

Editor’s Note: Today, Harlon Matthews is a therapeutic recreational specialist, coordinates the wheelchair sports for Henry County Parks and Recreation and is a certified tennis instructor. He not only teaches wheelchair tennis but also private lessons to junior tennis players. He’s a tennis tournament director, he’s the chairperson for the USTA Georgia Wheelchair Committeeand serves on the USTA Southern Wheelchair Committee and the USTA National Wheelchair Committee. Part 5 of a 5 part series.

Tennis has opened several doors for Matthews.

Tennis has opened several doors for Matthews.

Matthews says, “Tennis is the one sport that opened several doors for me, and I’m in awe of what wheelchair tennis is doing for others. I’m happy to help everyone–able bodied and those in wheelchairs–succeed in tennis. This is my calling in life. USTA Georgia now calculates points for wheelchair players, just like they do for those who are able bodied. This process is new because there weren’t enough wheelchair tennis players to create a need for a point system. USTA contacted me about calculating points for rankings, but the number of players in Georgia has risen significantly. A committee was formed, and we created four tournaments for wheelchair tennis players.”

USTA was very supportive about the rising number of wheelchair players and tournaments. Photo source

USTA was very supportive about the rising number of wheelchair players and tournaments. Photo source

The Atlanta Open took place May 8, 2012, the Geranium Festival Tournament that I direct, is June 1-3, and the Augusta Tournament is the middle of June. The players accumulate state and national points. Then, the top players from each division earn an invitation to the Grand Prix Championship from October 26-28, 2012 at the Peachtree City Tennis Center. This tennis competition won’t be limited to just Georgia wheelchair tennis players, and we have other states talking to us about sending their top players in each division to the championships in October. We have good support from USTA National, USTA Southern and USTA Georgia for these events, as well as many local sponsors. We want this to become a huge event.”

Matthews hopes to always support those in and out of wheelchairs and to provide fun sports camps for everyone. Matthews believes that if he does this, his life will go where it’s supposed to go. He’s very humbled, pleased and thrilled with what’s happened in his life so far, and he says, “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen in the future. At the beginning of my disability, all I could do was ask, ‘Why me?’ But, once I opened my eyes and heart and learned to be patient – as hard as that was – eventually, I learned the reason why my life was the way it was. I learned that whether you’re pushing to get around, walking or crawling, there’s a purpose to be found. One day, if you keep searching, you’ll learn what that purpose is.”

The best advice Matthews can give anyone is, “Don’t fight your disability. Find what the purpose of that disability is. I believe the reason for my successful life is because I’ve accepted who I am. When I did that, I understood everything about my life and its purpose. I believe that life is all about taking all your experiences and using them for a reason. People go through hardships for a reason. Going through those bad experiences is terrible, but what you do with that experience is the important part. Perhaps you needed to go through that bad experience to minister to other people. Maybe you can help someone who’s going though that same type of experience. You get to make the choice of whether you let a bad experience or a disability beat you up the rest of your life, or you use that experience to help other people.”

Matthews found his calling in life. Here he is with some amazing players, one being Pete Sampras, the king of swing!

Matthews found his calling in life. Here he is with some amazing players, one being Pete Sampras, the king of swing!

For more information, please visit www.ustageorgia.com/wheelchair/index.htm and the USTA Georgia Facebook page that has a wheelchair section. If you have any questions, contact Harlon Matthews at hmatthews@co.henry.ga.us.

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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One Response to Harlon Matthews Says Don’t Fight Your Disability, Use It To Your Advantage

  1. Pingback: CBS Interviews UroMed's David Williams about Wheelchair Tennis

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