Eddie Shapard worked thousands of hours to make the Oklahoma high school state tennis tournaments more memorable for its participants.
At next weekend's boys' meet, he'll get to enjoy it all one last time. Shapard, who turns 72 next month, has cancer and has been given 60-90 days to live.
He terminated chemotherapy because, he said, “I opted for quality of life rather than length of life.”
Shapard was recently given a lifetime achievement award by the Oklahoma Tennis Hall of Fame. A plaque honoring his contributions to high school tennis was unveiled Friday during the girls' state tournament at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center.
Shapard's “labor of love,” he called it, began simply because he was a dad surprised by the lack of fanfare surrounding his daughter's No. 2 singles state championship in 1985.
“There was just no celebration, no history, no nothing that celebrated the accomplishment,” Shapard said.
More specifically, there was no program. So, with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association's blessing, he began compiling all the past tennis results and champions and, in 1986, produced the first state tennis tournament program.
“At first, I had to go back and accumulate all the players back to the first sanctioned tournament in 1958,” Shapard said. “I went out to the OSSAA and got their records, but all they had for the doubles players were the last names. I had to track down 30 years of names.”
Shapard, an attorney and local business owner, enlisted the help of Oklahoma high school sports historian and former Oklahoman reporter Ray Soldan. He found misspellings in the OSSAA's records and worked diligently to make his program as accurate as possible.
“Through the years, people would call and say, ‘I played in 1961 and you've got my name misspelled,'” he remembered. “I never realized how many ways you can spell John ... but I think it's very accurate now.”
About four years after he started producing the programs, he was still charging a small fee for them. But one year, a No. 2 doubles girls player, who he remembers wasn't highly seeded, came to look at the program with her mom.
“She said, ‘Mom, here's my name, and here's my picture,'” Shapard remembered. “She was really excited, but she didn't buy a program because she couldn't afford it.
“I went home and told my wife, ‘We've got to figure out a way to give these kids a program.' Some of the kids who are the least talented, it means the most to them.”
So from that point on, the programs — roughly 600 a year — were free to the state qualifiers.
His last tennis-playing child graduated in 1994, but he enjoyed producing the program so much that he kept on doing it. He wrote articles for them and took photos. And with the detailed history included, his programs were among the most informative of any sport.
“What separates the tennis program from other sports is, his programs had everything,” said Heritage Hall coach Dick Villaflor, who coached both of Shapard's daughters. “Every statistic, every team player, every team picture. All the past winners. It just had it all.”
He estimates he spent a couple hundred hours a year producing the program with his wife, Sandy.
“If a man like him didn't take this on, it never would've gotten done,” Villaflor said.
Now, Shapard is enjoying the time he has left. He doesn't want any pity for his condition and said he feels no bitterness about it.
“To be bitter, frustrated or anxious about it, to me, just deprives you of the quality of life you'd like to have while you're here,” he said. “I'm totally comfortable with philosophically, emotionally and spiritually with where it is.”
Richard Labarthe, who through tennis has become close to Shapard, said, “He's an Oklahoma City treasure,”