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Wed, 06.16.1920

Bob Ryland, Tennis Player, and Coach born

Bob Ryland

*Bob Ryland was born on this date in 1920. He was a Black tennis player and coach.

Bob Ryland was born in Chicago; his mother and twin brother died of pneumonia when he was a baby. Robert's father sent him to live with his grandmother in Mobile, Alabama, where he helped his great-grandfather pick cotton. When Ryland was ten, he returned to Chicago to live with his father and played tennis. While a student there, he attended Tilden Tech High School in Chicago and won both the Illinois State and junior ATA singles titles.

After graduating from high school, Ryland received a scholarship to Xavier University, where his college tennis career started. After leaving Xavier, Ryland served in the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945. After an honorable discharge, he received another tennis scholarship to Wayne State University in Detroit, playing there for two years. While at Wayne, Ryland broke the color barrier by becoming one of the first black players to compete in the NCAA championships making it to the semifinals. Ryland was inducted into the University's Hall of Fame. In 1947 Ryland moved to California, where he broke another barrier at the Los Angeles Tennis Club when he lost in the Pacific Southwest Championships, 6–4 and 7–5.

In 1954 Ryland was offered a scholarship to Tennessee A&I in Nashville. Ryland was a player and a coach at the Tennessee school and led his team to the small college national championships twice. Ryland left Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree. After leaving Tennessee, Ryland became the physical education director of the YMCA in Montclair, New Jersey, and taught tennis in New York. In 1958, Ryland became the first Black to play professional tennis when promoter Jack March brought him to the World Pro Championships in Cleveland. Ryland was paid $300 for his appearance.

He later started coaching at New York's Mid-Town Tennis Club, where he worked from 1963 to 1990. He coached some of the world's top-ranked professionals, including Harold Solomon, Renee Blount, Leslie Allen, Arthur Ashe, Bruce Foxworth, Venus Williams, and Serena Williams. Ryland also taught and coached at clubs in Bermuda, Puerto Rico, St. Alban's Tennis Club in Washington, D.C., and the Mid-Town Tennis Club in Manhattan. Ryland was inducted into the Wayne State University Athletic Hall of Fame (1991), the Black Tennis Hall of Fame (2009), and the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002, where he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

In addition to coaching professionals, Ryland taught several celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Bill CosbyEartha Kitt, and David Dinkins. Ryland was inducted into the Wayne State University Athletic Hall of Fame (1991), the Black Tennis Hall of Fame (2009), and the Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. In 2019, Ryland was inducted into the USTA-Midwest Hall of Fame. Ryland also taught at the Harlem Armory, the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

He lived with his partner, Nancy. Bob Ryland died of aspiration pneumonia at his stepson's home in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on August 2, 2020, at 100.

To become a Coach
To become a Professional Athlete



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