The entire TCAV family mourns the tragic passing of James “Jimmy” Sheppard at age 25. James was an incredibly talented tennis player and an accomplished and rapidly developing coach as recognised by him being honored with the 2017 TCAV Rising Star Award.
The Sheppard family have remained loyal to the TCAV with Mark, Annette, Tim , Sam, and James all making an outstanding contribution individually and collectively to tennis and the tennis coaching industry.
At the time of his passing James was an incredibly popular, immensely respected, and truly dedicated coach at the Willison Park TC in a remarkable and passionate family business. As a coach Jimmy was described by his students and colleagues as outgoing, enthusiastic, loud, reliable, punctual, knowledgable and as his proud parents put it he was “the Rockstar” of the venue. James was fortunate to learn his craft from both parents coaching alongside Annette and forming a great team for the last three and half years. Both Mark and Annette shared a very special and inseparable bond with Jimmy both on and off the court
With a flood of tributes continuing to pour in the qualities to follow were shared by all who knew, loved, and believed in James. It is worth noting the overwhelming respect James’ opponents, team mates, peers, and practice partners had for this brilliant young champion. He was regarded as uncompromisingly tough, staunch, gutsy, but beyond all fair. James never gave a bad line call often calling opponents balls in that were clearly not even on the biggest points.
Special qualities encapsulated by the words kind, considerate, charming, witty, and honest were expressed by all in a cavalcade of heart wrenching tributes.
Everyone who was fortunate to know James including the tennis community in which he excelled will miss James but his memory will never fade. Jimmy could push boundaries and be a rascal but he was a loveable rogue who never harmed anyone and always stood true to his values shaped by his incredible parents Mark and Annette.
Many who had the pleasure of traveling on international Kanga Tours with James (he participated in 9) witnessed first hand the above mentioned qualities. He loved life and sharing these amazing tour experiences with his family and all those around him. He was immensely proud of his parents and siblings and as touched on earlier shared a magical bond with his both larger than life dad Mark and that powerful and unique bond with Annette that only a mother and son can understand and appreciate. Although each had their own delightful personalities and unique talents Tim, Sam, and James also held a very special relationship with each other born out of a great family life, mutual respect, and the pursuit of excellence in each of their endeavours.
James was a country boy who after the move to Melbourne missed his mates and life back in Inverloch. As such James moved back to South Gippsland to live with his proud and beautiful grandmother Ivy for over a year. He held a scholarship at Kooyong and despite returning unprepared after a four year hiatus James reached the Men’s singles final playing a memorable match disappointingly under lights on the porous due to rain delays. He once again demonstrated the toughness and natural talent he was blessed with.
James had a rock solid all round game based on resilience and strategy. As can be seen in the images James had a deadly backhand down the line which continually shocked and defied his opponents.
To Mark, Annette, Tim, Sam, Ivy, and extended family the TCAV sends our sincerest and deepest condolences for the untimely and tragic loss of such a great young man. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to his family and to those including TCAV who will continue to support the Sheppard family as they work through the unimaginable grief. They will need you.
Rest In Peace James. We all loved and respected you through the good times and the difficult times. You leave an incredible legacy.
Below is a snapshot of James’ remarkable coaching and playing achievements:
TCAV Member since 2016;
TCAV Rookie Of The Year Award 2017;
Assisted in Coaching programs in South Gippsland since he was 11 years of age;
Head Coach at Inverloch for 18 months;
Coached at Willison Park Tennis Club for 5.5 years;
When he stopped playing at 16 James was…
Number 2 in Victoria in 16 & Unders behind Andrew Harris;
Won the Kooyong Pat Cash 21 & Under title at 16;
Runner up Kooyong Open Mens Club Championships after not playing for 4 years in 2016;
Played Grade 2 Pennant at 14 years of age;
Won ITF Doubles in Waikato – New Zealand;
Semi Finalist in ITF New Zealand Indoor Hardcourts;
Semi Finalist in ITF in Brisbane;
World Ranking ITF Junior 286;
Ranked 100 in Australia Open Mens at 16;
Victorian Pizzey Cup Team Member;
AMT Platinum Doubles Winner Doveton with Paul Arber, Melbourne Tennis Centre with Jimmy Dougherty;
Won Wollongong Junior Singles Tournament;
Won Canberra in Junior Doubles with Mitchell Burman;
TCAV Singles Winner multiple times;
Won numerous Junior Tournaments Wonthaggi, Drouin, Leongatha, Inverloch, Traralgon, St Arnaud, Auckland, Gisborne, Hamilton, Launceston, Noosa Heads;
Been on 8 Kanga Tennis Tours to New Zealand, 1 to USA.