By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Keith Swindoll has spent the past 30 years of his life giving back to the game he loves so much.
On Saturday, tennis will give back to the Cullman native, as Swindoll is set to be inducted into the 29th annual Alabama Tennis Foundation Hall of Fame. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Vestavia Country Club in Birmingham.
“I’m very honored and humbled,” Swindoll said. “I was shocked when I got the letter in the mail. I thought it might be an invitation to a Pro-Am, but when I found out was it was, I was very excited. I can’t wait.”
Swindoll graduated from Cullman High in 1977 where he ran track and cross country. He didn’t take a serious interest in tennis until around the age of 20.
“I’ve always loved sports,” he said. “They were playing tennis at the high school one day, and I started playing. I just fell in love with it.”
One of the aspects Swindoll finds fascinating about tennis is the continuous evolution of the player.
“You’re ultimately competiting against yourself,” he said. “You continuously get better. There’s always something to learn and I love that about tennis.”
Following high school, Swindoll attended and graduated from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where he currently resides. The 53-year-old has since collected a plethora of accolades as a player and coach.
Swindoll is a six-time winner of Alabama Tennis’ Professional of the Year and is one of only three Master Professionals in the state. The two-time High School Coach of the Year has been at the helm of 14 state championship teams at West End Christian and Tuscaloosa Academy and was a volunteer assistant coach for Alabama’s women’s tennis team.
He has also been the Director of Tennis at Indian Hills County Club in Tuscaloosa since 1987, a position he still holds today.
“Tennis has been a great way for me to meet new people, stay healthy and make a difference,” Swindoll said. “More than anything, some of the friends I’ve made through tennis remain some of my very best friends today.”
Swindoll has a 9-year-old daughter, whom also plays tennis. He said he’s already seen the impact it’s has made on her.
“It’s a great sport,” he said. “It’s done things for her already. It gives you something of your own and I think everyone needs that.”
Charity work has been a staple of Swindoll’s involvement with the game of tennis. He runs numerous tournaments, including the Keith’s Classic (26 years) and the Prichett Moore Men’s City Invitational, which has been dubbed “Tuscaloosa’s Wimbledon.” He has also directed several junior, state, collegiate and southern adult tournaments as well.
“These tournaments creates different ways to bring people together to help various charities,” Swindoll said.
Swindoll recalled a tournament just a few days after the devastating tornados back in April 2011, where he briefly deliberated postponing the event but ultimately decided to carry on with it.
“So many people were helping in the community,” he said. “People got together for it, and we raised around $6,000 for the city of Tuscaloosa that day. It felt great.”
Another example of Swindoll’s love for tennis comes from a charity event back in 1990, when the tennis pro played 72 consecutive hours of tennis to raise money for the Tuscaloosa Community Soup Bowl, which feeds local homeless people.
Swindoll said the idea came to him from a brainstorming session with his assistant. He wanted to make an impact and do something different. They decided three-straight days of tennis would do the trick.
“It was one of the craziest and most memorable moments of my life,” he said. “People donated, bands came out to play at night to keep us awake. I think it slept for 24 straight hours after that.
“It’s not something I’d recommend to anyone.”
The son of Larry and Faye Swindoll, Swindoll credits his parents and growing up in Cullman as the foundation for the success he’s had in his life.
“That’s why I coach, to give back,” he said. “Coach Bill Griffin Sr. and coach Del Brock inspired me to coach. They told me I could do anything I wanted. I looked up to those guys.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.