Archie Chawla has spent years getting racquets in the hands of youth, adults and seniors.
Chawla was honoured for his work on November 7 when he was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame as a builder in badminton/squash/tennis. Also inducted that night at the Victoria Inn were Dr. Gordon Cumming (builder in sport medicine/speed skating), Trevor Kennerd (football), Ken Opalko (basketball), Ken Peters (athletics), Jeff Powell (rowing), Bill Ranford (hockey) and the 1964-65 University of Manitoba Bisons men’s hockey team.
Chawla came to Winnipeg from India in January of 1971 at age 20 to work as the badminton pro at the Wildewood Club. The next year he was introduced to tennis. Chawla was looking for a summer job and the Winnipeg Lawn Tennis Club, which had just moved to Wildewood, needed someone to look after their grounds. Chawla took the job and soon started instructing the sport at the club.
“I started coaching tennis at the same time I was learning how to play tennis,” said Chawla.
The places Chawla has taught tennis at in Winnipeg include WLTC, Deer Lodge Tennis Club, Winnipeg Canoe Club, Winnipeg Winter Club and community centres. From 1981-99 Chawla was the Canoe Club’s badminton, squash and tennis pro. He started Racquets Pro Shop at the Canoe Club in 1981 before taking the shop to the Winnipeg Winter Club in 1999.
The Manitoba Open was regularly held on the clay courts at the Canoe Club and Chawla remembers those tournaments attracting over 200 players. Committee members would contact the tennis coaches at various colleges to promote the tournament, and players came from such spots as South Dakota, the University of Minneapolis, Alberta and eastern Canada.
“That tournament ran usually 10 to 11 days,” recalled Chawla.
Like tennis, Chawla didn’t take up squash until he moved to Winnipeg. But he developed into an elite coach in the sport. Among the top squash players Chawla has coached are former national champions Marnie Baizley and Alana Miller, both of whom reached No. 30 in the world.
Miller is also a five-time Manitoba Open tennis champion in women’s singles. She was introduced to squash when she attended a tennis camp at the Canoe Club as an eight-year-old: on rainy days, Chawla would bring his tennis camp participants into the badminton and squash courts.
Chawla, the 2001 Canadian Masters badminton champion, was about 12 when he took up badminton in India. His first match was in a city school championship with 3,000 people watching.
Chawla’s uncle Damon Chawla was a top ranked badminton player in India before coming to Winnipeg in 1959 to work as the badminton pro at the Winnipeg Winter Club. When Damon moved to Montreal in the fall of 1971, Archie’s brother Pal Chawla was hired as the WWC’s badminton pro. Archie took over the position following Pal’s retirement in 2011.
Archie Chawla has spent countless hours on the badminton, squash and tennis courts at WWC. He came to the club in 1974 to work as an assistant badminton pro and he became the WWC’s squash pro in 1979. During those years Chawla also taught tennis on the club’s outdoor courts. After 18 years at the Canoe Club he returned to WWC to work as the tennis and squash pro in 1999 and 2000 before serving 10 years as the provincial badminton coach.