By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
RICHMOND– When Joe and Shima Grover moved to Richmond in 2005, they wanted to get involved in the tennis scene.
The couple had participated in programs in Midland, Mich., and knew Richmond had a great tennis reputation.
Shima said the first thing they did was join Raintree Swim and Racquet Club.
“The second thing we did was we went looking for the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center because we thought we would like to volunteer,” said Shima.
After that, the Grovers turned to the Richmond Tennis Association.
Since joining the RTA, Joe and Shima have volunteered and promoted the wheelchair game.
Joe served as the president of the RTA in 2012 and is currently on the board of the directors. Shima is a member of the RTA’s advisory board.
Because of their dedication and passion for tennis, the Grovers will be inducted into the Richmond Tennis Hall of Fame during a gala dinner and celebration Oct. 28 at the Westwood Club
Tickets for the affair are available at richmondtennis.org.
The Grovers met at Alma College in Michigan. They were married in 1962.
Joe earned his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, while Shima completed a master’s degree. The couple didn’t play tennis until their son began taking lessons.
They decided to try it out too.
Joe and Shima said Midland has a great tennis community.
“Midland was awarded the best tennis town title in USTA’s best tennis town contest in 2009,” said Shima, 77, who is a native of Tokyo. “Richmond was named the third-best tennis town the following year.”
The couple moved because their daughter works as a physician in Richmond.
“We thought we could be of help to our daughter because she’s a surgical oncologist and works late hours, and we could help when she had a family,” said Joe.
Shortly after the move, the Grovers gave their USTA tickets to the RTA for a raffle.
Former RTA President Fred Bruner said he appreciated their donation.
“It was a huge benefit to us to have those funds,” said Bruner. “I was amazed, shocked, and impressed by what caring people they were.”
Bruner said the Grovers have helped the Richmond tennis community.
“They’re a fixture in places around town where tennis is being introduced,” said Bruner. “If anything needs to be done, they’re there to do it.”
The Grovers have served on a number of USTA committees. Joe was elected to the board of directors in 2005 and served as a vice-president for four years.
The couple has been volunteering at the local, district, sectional and national levels for 40 years.
Shima is vice chairman of the USTA’s wheelchair tennis committee. She heads the Midlothian Athletic Club Wheelchair Open, which is held every spring at the Chesterfield County facility.
Shima said she got involved in wheelchair tennis after meeting Nick Taylor, a quadriplegic wheelchair player and gold medalist in three consecutive Paralympics.
“We heard about how little support wheelchair players get in the U.S. compared to European countries,” said Shima.
The MAC Wheelchair Open has been held at MAC for the past eight years. Last June, players from Tennessee, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia competed in the event.
Joe said he wants to get as many new players into the game as possible.
“Here in the city of Richmond, we have more than 100 courts,” said Joe. “What we are trying to do is promote more community play on these courts by encouraging and establishing low-cost to no-cost clinics for children and adults of all ages.”
Together, the Grovers have organized junior tournaments at Battery Park on the North Side.
Shima said they keep entry fees low to appeal to as many applicants as possible.
“We really felt like we accomplished a cross-cultural [environment] and also created value for all types of tennis players,” said Shima.
The Grovers were named Tennis Industry Magazine’s 2014 tennis advocates of the year. The previous year, they were chosen as volunteers of the year in the Virginia district of the USTA.
Former RTA President Lou Einwick said the Grovers are an integral part of the Richmond tennis community.
“I think you can say they are the most dedicated people helping out tennis that you will find anywhere,” said Einwick. “We were very lucky to have them move here.”