Beloved One Love Tennis coach returns to the court following strokes

Updated: May. 23, 2021 at 3:49 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Lenny Simpson, the founder of One Love Tennis in Wilmington and former professional tennis player, is back on the court after suffering three strokes several months ago.

The first was a mini-stroke, known as a Transient Ischemic Attack, that kept him in the hospital for several days. After he was released, he suffered another stroke that gave him paralysis on his right side.

“Having a stroke — I have never had anything like that happen in my whole life,” Lenny said.

While he managed to bounce back from the first two episodes, the third stroke was the most severe. While Lenny doesn’t remember exactly what happened, his wife JoAnn remembers it all very well.

“While he was in the hospital recovering from that stroke, he began to have seizures, and then he had his third stroke and that, that’s the stroke where he developed the aphasia, you know, that affected his ability to speak. The other two he came right back from but that’s the one that has done the most damage, but he is fighting back as always.”

Lenny continues to battle back as always. He returned to the court three weeks ago, but his speech continues to be the biggest obstacle to overcome in his recovery.

“I’m trying to get my language back from the stroke, so it is not an easy thing to revert,” he said.

Coach Lenny attends therapy twice a week, according to a One Love Tennis Facebook post, but Tennis and coaching has been very beneficial in his recovery, he said.

“This is his love language,” JoAnn said. “They [the players] help him with his therapy, they understand him when he talks better than a lot of adults, they know what he’s saying. And then our academic class has projects for him to do that help him with his occupational therapy, so they’re helping Coach Lenny just like Coach Lenny helps them.”

Lenny and JoAnn say the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming, and that the cards, texts and emails keep pouring in.

“To read all of the emails and the texts from all over this world — People that I have forgotten about got in contact... all the children, the prayers — its been quite rewarding,” Lenny said.

And the cards, texts and emails just keep pouring in. The power of prayer has also been essential.

“You pray for a miracle and then when it happens you’re so surprised, you’re thankful, but we really shouldn’t be surprised. When we pray for a miracle, the Lord hears and so this time he brought him back and, you know, almost 100%,” JoAnn said.

They are thankful that he can continue One Love Tennis’ mission and continue doing what he loves.

“God giving me another chance to continue what he’s got in store for us and for One Love,” Lenny said.

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