The Little Green Book of Tennis


Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book of Golf” is one of the best recent examples of coaching a sport. I have patterned my new book on tennis instruction using methods similar to Coach Penick. Drawing from fifty years of teaching and coaching, I share insights from my mentors who helped me craft repeatable techniques for winning. I also share our personal experiences and observations that have proven to be solid advice. Hopefully, you’ll find this book to be succinct and filled with gems for all levels of players and coaches.

If you would like to purchase a printed copy of the book ($28/book), email me at ethomasparham [at] gmail.com. If you’d like to purchase a digital copy, they are available on Amazon here.

Here are a few early reviews: 

“If you are looking for a tennis book that is both entertaining and thought provoking this is the book for you. Tom Parham’s insights and musings are both informative and entertaining. As a former college coach, I found it a great read! This Hall of Famer has the ability to think outside the box and you might just find yourself doing the same thing. Coaches will appreciate his originality and benefit from his years of experience.” (Coach Bob Bayliss, Notre Dame Men’s Tennis, ITA Hall of Fame)

“I was very fortunate to find Elon University and Coach Parham when I decided to play college tennis, after getting out of the sport in my crucial junior years. At Elon with Parham at the helm I found the love for the sport again. Coach Parham wanted you to love the game when you graduated and never treated his players like a number. He truly cared about them. I learned a lot from Coach Parham not only in the 4 years I played for him but throughout all my years in teaching and coaching tennis. He has been a gracious mentor to me. I was fortunate to follow Coach Parham as the Elon Men’s Tennis Coach when he retired in 2004 and have passed much of his knowledge on to my players. A lot of what I learned is written in “The Little Green Book of Tennis” as he wrote it all down. I believe this book is a must read to all high school coaches and players.” (Michael Leonard, Elon University Men’s Tennis Coach)

“Tom Parham is my friend, my coach at Elon University, and a long time advisor. He brought me to America. He skillfully guided me through a new world and a new tennis arena–American College Tennis. We did well. He understood both the game, the team, and me.  He is a very well respected professional with success at coaching and teaching at all levels. Coach Parham is a master teacher and looked at as a integral part of tennis history in North Carolina, the South, and the nation. The book, The Little Green Book of Tennis is spot on in method and message for coaches, players, and teams, at all levels. Buy it.” (Roland Thornqvist, Head Women’s Tennis Coach, University of Florida)

“Coach Parham is a masterful teacher, southern humorist, and sports philosopher who explains tennis strategies and techniques in a way that anyone can “get it.” The wisdom gained in a brilliant career has been boiled down to  bite-sized pearls of wisdom in “The Little Green Book of Tennis,” a must-read for coaches, instructors, players, and parents.” (Ron Smarr, Rice University Men’s Tennis, ITA Hall of Fame, Winningest Coach in Men’s College Tennis upon retirement)

“Tom Parham’s recent authorship of his book The Little Green Book of Tennis is a great handbook for young, aspiring tennis coaches. It is also a thoughtful, entertaining read for all tennis buffs. During Tom’s forty-plus years of coaching collegiate tennis at ACC (Barton) and Elon University, he won numerous conference, district, and national championships in both the NAIA and NCAA levels of competition. As Director of Athletics at Elon University for twenty-seven years, it was a pleasure and with admiration that I observed his success during his tenure at both institutions. Coach Parham was and continues to be a committed and astute “student” of the game while he is quick to offer praise and credit to such outstanding coaches as Jim Leighton and Jim Verdieck for their mentoring that greatly enhanced his knowledge and skill for his teaching expertise.” (Dr. Alan J. White, Elon University Athletics Director)

“Tom Parham and I are colleagues and friends.  We are a lot alike, because we could not have lived without coaching.  Both native North Carolinians,  we both played two varsity sports at small colleges in NC—me at Guilford, Tom at Barton. I have seen this man coach and teach. His words flow off the page much in the same manner as the great teachers and coaches I have known. Coach Parham concludes that “this material is, in large part, not mine.  I am only the messenger. I believed in it and benefitted from these masters. I did write it down.”  I don’t think anyone has done it better.” (David Odom, Wake Forest University Men’s Basketball Coach)

“I have read the Verdieck chapter, and you did a great job capturing my dad’s thoughts. I still get choked up when I try to express my great pride in my dad and give him the credit he deserved. My dad focused so much on finding a player’s weakness and fixing it, as well as putting his players into pressure situations to learn to compete and remain poised. Each day of practice at Redlands was competition, whether a challenge match, a round robin, a steady game, a volley game. Coach Verdieck would test his players, not only with their ability to make shots and eliminate errors, but to do it when feeling pressure.” –Doug Verdieck

I played for Coach Parham during the late sixties at Atlantic Christian College. After graduation and entering a career in teaching and coaching, I was a member of the tennis camp staff at Atlantic Christian and Elon University. Much was learned during these twenty-five plus years from my mentor Tom Parham.  He had spent years talking with some of the top teaches and coaches including Jim Leighton at Wake Forest, Dennis Van Der Meer, Chet and Bill Murphy, Welby Van Horn, Wayne Sabin, Jim Verdieck, and others. What he did with all of this knowledge was to present it in such a manner that both young and old could understand it.  This is exactly what he has done with “The Little Green Book of Tennis.” He wrote it all down. The best book I have ever read on the game of tennis – from teaching techniques, to drills, to strategy. A must read for players and coaches. (Eddie Gwaltney, Retired Athletic Director, Teacher, Coach)

“Coach Parham coached me at Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College.  I was in the middle of some 30 Swedish youngsters who ventured into a new country, a new language, and new friends. This came largely at the time of “the golden days of tennis in Sweden.” Bjorn Borg was our impetus.  Edberg, Wilander, Anders Jarryd, an on and on.  My father was the director of the Swedish Open in Stockholm.  I grew up watching these guys, their games, techniques, deportment. While Coach Parham recruited world-wide and very well, he had the Swedes at the core for 26 years. He told us all, “Do it right academically, personally, and on the court. This is not just about you.  You establish whether I can bring in other players behind you.” It is hard to imagine how many good young Swedes there were, and how hard players and coaches attempted to learn and play the game. At one time there were about 300 Swedes playing college tennis in America. Quite frankly, most of us had been trained by more knowledgeable teachers and pros. But Coach Parham had done his homework. He had paid his dues.  Not only that, he was eager to absorb what we brought. I once heard him say “… the Swedes know things we don’t. And they know how to play as a team member.”  He was all about the team. We respected him, knowledge, effort, and leadership. And we held up our end of the bargain.”  (Johan Sturen, ACC ’83, two time first team All-American).


Now retired from coaching tennis, I marvel at the changes in the game. The US OPEN men’s singles match between Nadal and Theim may have been the longest match ever played at that level of play. In 2012 it was apparent the next tactical gold mine was the drop shot. Now they have perfected how to defend this nightmare. What is next?
1. Temperature control. Eight players retired with heat the victor in early play.
2. Two of the all time best (and toughest) men–Federer and Nadal were victims, one to heat, one to injury. The parity of the players, and the number of them, has combined with technology to the point that even the fittest succumb. Somewhat like pro football, who is left at the end, wins. Most obvious first rule change: Only 2 of 3 sets.
3. There were no referees in small college team tennis matches when I began coaching. Players made all calls. The home coach was in charge of decisions. Some “goat rodeos” in those days. The point penalty system gave our new found referees a way to control misbehavior. Took a while. Illie Nastase shouted at the “cyclops” prototype “…you made in Russia!” The new machines can make a call as narrow as a blade of grass. Little arguments with modern line calls. The
2018 NCAA Mens Singles finals featured Wake Forest’s #2 player beating Wake’s #1 player in the finals. I witnessed a similar situation 45 years ago.
Small colleges often played in the NAIA. Presbyterian College of Clinton, SC was coached by Jim Shakespeare. And, similarly, their #1 (George Amaya) played their #2(Milan Kofol) for the title. The chair umpire and only official was the impeccable Mr. Marvin Richmond. Mr. Richmond, a small but quite neat man, had served a term as the head of the USTA.
College tennis was growing fast and needed rules. The NAIA had its unique behavior rule which simply stated ONE WARNING, SECOND OFFENSE—GAME. This was also before tiebreakers. Early in the close and heated (for teammates)match Mr. Richmond had given Kofol with a warning. At 7/7 in the final set, Amaya broke Kofol for the first service break in the set. This made the score 8/7 with Amaya to serve for the match. Kofol reeling from losing his serve, made the fatal mistake of underestimating the rules. Approaching his seat for the change over, he angrily threw his racket at his chair. Stunned, the quiet crowd heard a big voice from the small referee: “Penalty two. GAMES 9-7. Mr Amaya is the NAIA MEN’S SINGLES CHAMPION!”
Understandably Coach Shakespeare objected. His reason: “You can’t make that call, this is the national championship!” As Mr. Richardson descended to the bottom rung of umpire’s chair he straitened his necktie, turned to the coach and players and declared “WHAT BETTER TIME TO MAKE THE PROPER CALL.” And walked away.
There is written proof of my sincere admiration for the Williams family and what all they have accomplished over the years. At the same time, having watched more tennis this year than ever, my major complaint has been “…the rules do not allow throwing and/or damaging your racket. Male or Female, any day.
The rules are important. Examples are important.
Fewer rackets will be thrown.




PHONE IS 252-764-3492


“HELPING  (blog 176)




ethomasparham@gmail. com

Yesterday I was the moderator of a podcast by colleague, John Danise, of Florida. John is old, like me, and like me, is a fan of tennis. We share many ideas as to how to enhance tennis in America, specifically high school and college team tennis.


The personal information above is a copy of contacts to work I have done. My son convinced me of THE CLOUD, and the willingness to give freely to anyone who will access the blog, or the free pdf to both books.

The topic we confronted yesterday was the persistent issue of how to make tennis better in America.   My belief has always been scholarship availability for American juniors is both legal, and a key to player improvement (and sadly, to the recent demise in quality).

I was particularly encouraged by two of our contributors, one American, one a South African.   Having lost the argument for some kind of reservation of scholarships, it is good to know there are bright, younger people aware of the problem, and the willingness to put some pressure on the big guns.

Maybe the best thing yesterday, was making people aware if the history of this battle. Both sides.   The second half of HELPING is all on the history of information I have gathered since 1970 (“pre—internet”) Some mine, mostly others.

Many have been aware of the issues and legality of the problem. It was good to hear there are some new ones with the passion for our tennis. (see “

Passing the Flag” (blog 163.)


PS you can hear the podcast from yesterday by googling yella ball network. Find the specific podcast and punch away.



From my friend, Alan:  The head football coach was about to send a rookie college football coach on his first recruiting trip.  The prior season had yielded  no wins, eight losses, and two ties.

Old coach’s instructions.  1.  If  they ask you what our team record was last year, pretend you didn’t understand them.  2. They will likely respond, “…what was your record last season?” 3.  You can then say “Oh! EIGHT AND TWO”.

(It is not whether you win or lose, but how you place the blame. Or CLAIM THE FAME!)

(“It’s the economy, Stupid”!)

Here is a quote of my own.  Almost always the coach being fired is a better person than those firing him/her.

I hated  to fire a coach.  Like shooting your dog.

Historically team wins dictate employment.   2-8, 1-9, 2-8, adios.  Most  recoveries look hopefully like this—first year (3/5) , second year -5/5, third–7/3 and  almost everybody is happy.  Can’t please em all no matter what.

There are a lot of different things going on now.  Historically judgement on football coaches was about four years.  A lot like politics. “Give him four years to build his program” to “he better win next year or he’s gone.” Like politics?   Similarly “…if he gets it done in four years, we’ll give him four more!”

The previous Presidents, Clinton, W, Obama had eight years.

There is currently a lot of chest thumping over the economy.  And, in fact, the current crowd began to brag about this being totally to their credit  very early on.  A little quick for football.

CLINTON from 1992-2000  ended with a surplus budget.  (“It happened during my administration!”–POGO, AND BILL.)  Economy record?  9/1.

2000-2008:  The “W” (give cheney  and rusmfeld plenty of credit).  Iraq and hedge funds.  The term “trillions” at the end of this eight.  Economy record, 0-10.

Obama (2008 – 2016) .  The good news on the street is that we have been in the longest bull stock bull market ever.  About 8/9 years.  Hmm, that puts its beginning about 2008.

JET JOB (definition).  In the sports world when a team improves rapidly, skeptics arise.  Why?  Because to do it right takes time.  When a team goes from 2/8 to 8/2 in the first year of a coach’s tenure, eyes roll.  Pundits ponder.

It can happen quickly.  One team we had pulled 2/8 to 8/2.  I’ve got to say that coach was a really good one and we brought in two all time players at QB and wide  receiver.  After another 2/8 was about to be terminated, one staffer seemed concerned:  “I’m not sure.  This guy has recruited a great group for next year, plus he had the courage to properly red shirt some that will really help.”  Still he was replaced and the new coach went 8/2.

“You can’t make chicken salad until you have the chicken.”  (Buddy Bedgood).








Being a small college teacher/coach, summer employment was a must for survival.  Students, too, needed to earn summer money.  So, in 1968, when coaching friends  Bob Paroli and Dick Knox, offered me a job in New York I headed north.   Coach Paroli was the summer headmaster of the private academy, New York Military Academy, and he also needed college students to fill out  the staff.  I recruited five athletes who were enrolled at Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College in Wilson, NC).  Most all of the summer campers were from New York City.  370 teenage and preteen boys.  All shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and  behaviors.   One Italian 10 year agreed to say the blessing every day:  “Rocky DiPietro will now say grace:   “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thou bounty through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”

In October of 2015 Donald Trump’s statements about John McCain (“…he is no hero.” Or “…I prefer my heroes to not be captured.”) stunned me.  I wondered how he could survive such a vile tact.  I knew that Trump was deferred four times during  the Vietnam war.  Upon researching the reason he cited was  “…bone spurs in his heel.”  Incredulously he couldn’t recall which heel.

Then the all time kicker.  Trump equated his military expertise as superior, having attended military school.   Nearby West Point?  Nope—New York Military Academy.  SAY WHAT?

Toward the end of that summer it was announced the campers would re-fight the Civil War.  Coach Bob Gilmore of Sanford, NC would command the South, and General “McFanny” (Gary McMahan of Va. Beach), the North.

There was never any other type of military education or concern.

My guys said it was a so-so water battle.


From Wikipedia

McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958 and followed his father and grandfather—both four-star admirals—into the U.S. Navy. He became a naval aviator and flew ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, he was almost killed in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. While McCain was on a bombing mission during Operation Rolling Thunder over Hanoi in October 1967, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war until 1973. McCain experienced episodes of torture and refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer. The wounds that he sustained during the war left him with lifelong physical disabilities. He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where he entered politics. In 1982, McCain was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms. He entered the U.S. Senate in 1987 and easily won reelection five times, the last time in 2016.






Longtime attache:  Mr. Fields, why are you studying the bible at this late date?

W.C. Fields: I’m looking for loopholes.

I am still amazed at the subdued attitudes toward the pope’s denial of the existence of hell.   Bet w.c.  fields would have joined me in celebration.  See blog 223.  I tend to agree with the late Christopher Hitchens’ description that the notion of hell was often used as a form of “child abuse”.  More on Hitchens later.   For now he joins Yuval Harari, Bill Bryson, and Jared Diamond as authors  I have become interested in studying.  And will now recommend through some comments their books contain.

Infinity and eternity are tough to grasp.  Bill Bryson, in his “A Short History of Nearly Everything”,  used this example to explain how long this world has been around (13.5 billion years).  Bryson says if you spread you arms to full wingspan,  the distance from the tip one middle finger to the other represents 13.5 billion years.  The distance from your left middle finger to your right wrist represents earth’s existence before any kind of life appeared.   If you take one finger nail file off the middle finger of that right hand, that would approximate the length of time mankind of today (homo sapiens) has existed.  Did god invent man, or did man invent god?  No mankind before that nail file, no religion.

Below are some excerpts from these authors:

Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday

Reasons for religion

  1. The function of explanation 
  2. Defusing anxiety 
  3. Providing comfort 
  4. Organization and obedience   
  5. Codes of behavior towards strangers
  6. Justifying war

Table 9.2. Examples of supernatural beliefs confined to particular religions

1. There is a monkey god who travels thousands of kilometers at a single somersault. (Hindu)

2. You can obtain benefits from the spirits by spending four days in a lonely place without food and water and cutting off a finger joint from your left hand. (Crow Indians)

3. A woman who had not been fertilized by a man became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, whose body eventually after his death was carried up to a place called heaven, often represented as being located in the sky. (Catholic)

4. A shaman, who is paid for his efforts, sits in a house in dim light together with all of the village’s adults, who close their eyes. The shaman goes to the bottom of the ocean, where he pacifies the sea goddess who had been causing misfortunes. (Inuit)

5. To determine whether a person accused of adultery is guilty, force-feed a poisonous paste to a chicken. If the chicken does not die, that means that the accused person was innocent. (Azande)

6. Men who sacrifice their lives in battle for the religion will be carried to a heaven populated by beautiful virgin women. (Islam)

7. On Tepeyac Hill north of Mexico City in 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to a Christianized Indian, spoke to him in Nahuatl (the Aztec language, at that time still widely spoken there), and enabled him to pick roses in a desert area where roses normally can’t grow. (Mexican Catholic)

8. On a hilltop near Manchester Village in western New York State on September 21, 1823, the Angel Moroni appeared to a man named Joseph Smith and revealed to him buried golden plates awaiting translation as a lost book of the Bible, the Book of Mormon. (Mormon)

9. A supernatural being gave a chunk of desert in the Middle East to the being’s favorite group of people, as their home forever. (Jewish)

10. In the 1880s God appeared to a Paiute Indian named Wovoka during a solar eclipse, and informed him that in two years buffalo would again fill the plains and white men would vanish, provided that Indians took part in a ritual called the Ghost Dance.

Get this—yesterday at swimming pool gossip hour, a community friend pointed out that a local resident was actually arrested for this scam:  selling the fact that for a certain amount of money he could earn you access  to god, who in turn would grant you the kind of strength the salesman had demonstrated (among others feats, he tore a phone book in two! ) ps –an addendum to this addendum relates there  actually were two family members charged in the scam.  And, in fact, the two had an earlier disagreement about the money split, so one broke off into his own connection to god.  From 13.5 b till yesterday a new religion from Lands End!  Sounds like the Baptists.

VIRGINS.     The copy below shows an amazing number of virgin births.  I couldn’t help wondering if at least one of these virgin’s fathers didn’t concoct this theory as an “out” for a beloved daughter?

Christopher Hitchens “God is Not Great”

As for Bethlehem, I suppose I would be willing to concede to Mr. Prager that on a good day, I would feel safe enough standing around outside the Church of the Nativity as evening came on. It is in Bethlehem, not far from Jerusalem, that many believe that, with the cooperation of an immaculately conceived virgin, god was delivered of a son.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” Yes, and the Greek demigod Perseus was born when the god Jupiter visited the virgin Danae as a shower of gold and got her with child. The god Buddha was born through an opening in his mother’s flank. Catlicus the serpent-skirted caught a little ball of feathers from the sky and hid it in her bosom, and the Aztec god Huitzilopochtii was thus conceived. The virgin Nana took a pomegranate from the tree watered by the blood of the slain Agdestris, and laid it in her bosom, and gave birth to the god Attis. The virgin daughter of a Mongol king awoke one night and found herself bathed in a great light, which caused her to give birth to Genghis Khan. Krishna was born of the virgin Devaka. Horus was born of the virgin Isis. Mercury was born of the virgin Maia. Romulus was born of the virgin Rhea Sylvia. For some reason, many religions force themselves to think of the birth canal as a one-way street, and even the Koran treats the Virgin Mary with reverence. However, this made no difference during the Crusades, when a papal army set out to recapture Bethlehem and Jerusalem from the Muslims, incidentally destroying many Jewish communities and sacking heretical Christian Byzantium along the way, and inflicted a massacre in the narrow streets of Jerusalem, where, according to the hysterical and gleeful chroniclers, the spilled blood reached up to the bridles of the horses.


The Future?

“Sapiens” by Yuval Harari  is thought provoking.  President Obama and Bill Gates listed it on top of their reading recommendations.  And, as slow as the first 13 billion moved, the immediate past and present have picked up the pace.  Harari points to the computer as the clue to the hastening developments. Not the least of which is our increasing ability to gain “data”.  An acceleration of data collection will truly be rapid. So much so that Harari’s next book “Homo Deus” (man god) contends that the next version of man will differ from the homo sapiens we are today into a newcomer as different from us as we are from neanderthals.  Heavy.

I don’t know who will win the lottery prediction of mankind’s end.   Most have suggested we better be ready Thursday or so.  But looking at the scope of our past and speed of change, aren’t we perhaps just at the beginning, not the end?

Truth as the goal?

Is the truth what we should pursue, if not worship?  We are witnessing artificial intelligence galloping forward. New knees were unthinkable not long ago. New brain in the future?  No way?  Harari would say not long now.  Would it not follow that soon one would not have more evidence than faith to lean on.  Hitchens says exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.  What I do believe is that Hitchens deserves  the right to be an “antithesis” rather than an atheist.   Certainly Americans have the right to freedom of thought.   And who knows,  the data required to unleash the many mysteries of life and beyond, may be nearer than we know.

Christopher Hitchens “God is Not Great”

Chapter 15 – Religion as the Original Sin
There are, indeed, several ways in which religion is not just amoral, but positively immoral. And these faults and crimes are not to be found in the behavior of its adherents (which can sometimes be exemplary) but in its original precepts. These include:

• Presenting a false picture of the world to the innocent and the credulous
• The doctrine of blood sacrifice
• The doctrine of atonement
• The doctrine of eternal reward and/or punishment
• The imposition of impossible tasks and rules

Chapter 16 – Is Religion Child Abuse?
When we consider whether religion has “done more harm than good”—not that this would say anything at all about its truth or authenticity—we are faced with an imponderably large question. How can we ever know how many children had their psychological and physical lives irreparably maimed by the compulsory inculcation of faith? This is almost as hard to determine as the number of spiritual and religious dreams and visions that came “true,” which in order to possess even a minimal claim to value would have to be measured against all the unrecorded and unremembered ones that did not. But we can be sure that religion has always hoped to practice upon the unformed and undefended minds of the young, and has gone to great lengths to make sure of this privilege by making alliances with secular powers in the material world.

Chapter 19 – The Need for a New Enlightenment
“The true value of a man is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to the Truth. It is not possession of the Truth, but rather the pursuit of Truth by which he extends his powers and in which his ever-growing perfectibility is to be found. Possession makes one passive, indolent, and proud. If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and to offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand.” —GOTTHOLD LESSING, ANTI-GOKZ.E (1778)

“The Messiah Is Not Coming—and He’s Not Even Going to Call!” — ISRAELI HIT TUNE IN 2001


Yuval Noah Harari 

In the 300 years of the crucifixion of Christ to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, polytheistic Roman emperors initiated no more than four general persecutions of Christians. Local administrators and governors incited some anti-Christian violence of their own. Still, if we combine all the victims of all these persecutions, it turns out that in these three centuries the polytheistic Romans killed no more than a few thousand Christians. In contrast, over the course, of the next 1,500 years, Christians slaughtered Christians by the millions, to defend slightly different interpretations of the religion of love and compassion.


George Carlin

Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money!


W.H. Auden, “The More Loving One”

Looking up at the starts, I know quite well
That for all they care, I can go to hell.


Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

The various forms of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people to be equally true, by the philosopher as equally false, and by the magistrate as equally useful.


Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.


Garrison Keillor

Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car.


Stephen King

When his life was ruined, his family killed, his farm destroyed, Job knelt down on the ground and yelled up to the heavens, “Why god? Why me?” and the thundering voice of God answered, There’s just something about you that pisses me off.


PBS featured a show on the Blue Ridge Parkway last night.  The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) film showed a remarkable performance of men who needed a job.  And I was unaware of the nifty bargain between a North Carolina politician and FDR  that wound with Tar Heels gaining both the lions share of the tourism yielded, and social security.

We have a current similar situation.  Illegal Immigration.  And a wall that won’t happen is all that we have as a solution.    And a common knowledge that something has to be done that honors the law of the land.

The CCC was all about labor.  Is there labor now capable of solving the border problem?

Sources?  How about the military, both active and retired.  Are there not those who could provide the skills needed such as helicopter pilots, officers who need arms and policing skills, those who have injuries yet can  and want to help.  Are we not already paying many of these heroes.   How about a certain kind of prisoner, a trustee-like person who would serve rather than sit.   How about a program for illegals  themselves.  We may be able have them serve a time period of volunteer aid  that creates a legal pathway for them.

Is there data that could make this prediction:   Surely significantly trained personnel would be more mobil than a wall.  Technology and personnel could surely cut the number crossing illegally.   What would a cost analogy of using the above sources (and others) predict, compared to the cost of construction and management of the wall and what it would accomplish.

“…all a fourteen foot wall does is create a market for an eighteen foot ladder.”

PS—Various forms of the legalization of marijuana are growing.  Will this be worse that the ungodly number of young people who are in jail for minor pot offenses.  Or those who have been branded evil for a little weed?   And even more to the above issue,  wouldn’t this shift the tons of money from the drug cartels who force their citizens to risk flight, to taxation accrued in our own country?

We are going to have drugs.  What could be worse than what we have?

Anyone?  Bueller?











On two occasions (2007 and 2015) I tried to make note of the current changes or additions in the game of tennis.

NOTE:  MORE CHANGE!   After rereading the article below (done in 2015) I’d like add a few things.  I do think a rereading  before reading the “new” comments may help.

Time moves on. What has changed from the 1980’s up until now in the tennis world? Certainly some “physical” improvements have affected rackets. So much power generated with such ease.

There’s more night play. Lights are better, courts are better, and surfaces are improved.

Television continues to “spread the game.” Instruction is better. College coaches are now better paid and better informed.


Prize money, and more scholarships for Americans and internationals, has recruited athletes who now “pick tennis first.” These people are not people who “…couldn’t play anything else.”

And they are bigger, stronger faster. They train, their diets are better, weights are commonly used, etc.

A very positive change in governance of matches. The point penalty system cleaned up behavior problems.

College refereeing is better and they use more refs. Still two people can’t officiate six (or more contests).

Pro players are less likely to drink to excess now. “Rounders” or “tennis bums” have been “weeded out.”

Indoor facilities have leveled the playing field. Now many people, particularly young people, can play even year round, not just in the “weather-blessed” areas. When you don’t stop all year long, your “tennis education” grows expontentially (no re-learning” time needed, or wasted.)

One contrast with football and basketball is related to size. Soon there will be a 400lb, 6’9” football left tackle who is also quick (Read The Blind Side) or a basketball player who can dunk himself. Tennis and golf professionals still haven’t produced a dominating 6’7” superstar. Perhaps height produces more possibility for error in “lengthy shots.” Who knows, but “average sized” people still have a chance in championship tennis. (You do need a “big heart”)

The effectiveness of western grip forehands, like two-handed backhands, has been truly “certified” by numerous players. I would still encourage young players to add (“I didn’t change anything, I gave you a new one” – Jim Verdieck) a back-

hand under spin ball. It is a “tool” worthy of learning this grip change from Western to Continental, needed to hit this valuable shot.

If there were one other obvious suggestion it would be to observe how many forehands are now hit with “open” stances. Many “purists” of my day would straighten up that front lead foot. I think the rackets aid young players here, but the “western gripped – open stance- sling-shot forehand” stands on it’s own feet (one quite “open”).

All players now have access to what the great players of the later twentieth century taught tennis. Here are some examples (in addition to two handed back hands, and open stance forehands):

Bjorn Borg. I  think Borg taught the world to “hit is as hard as you can.” And he hit it in! It could be done. Topspin helped! (“I may hit long, I may hit wide, but I won’t hit into the net”)

Pete Sampras: Serve and volley with the same philosophy as Borg’s ground- strokes attitude.

If you hit it as hard as you can you eliminate a lot of judgment errors, based on “how hard to hit when?” (“Grip it and rip it” – John Daly)

Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King: Women can play the all court game. All things being equal groundstroke – wise, those who can attack also, will win.

There were at least two other contributions that are “must mentions.”

Andre Agassi:   Took ground strokes and the value of conditioning to a whole new level late in his career. Becoming extremely fit, Agassi had a period of time he ruled tennis by running opponents into oblivion with the simplest of strategies: Hit it hard as hell into alternate corners (with few errors) until the other guy was “spent” physically. That truly was impressive. No one had done this as well as Andre.

All made contributions, but none more so than the overall ability of Roger Federer and the ease with which he executes all of it. Perhaps no other player has had more “total” ability than Federer. His talent is staggering.

Would he be the same were it not for the lessons of Borg, Sampras, Laver, Agassi, Martina, and Evert? Is he the best ever? I can’t say.

What I suspect is there are youngsters watching, learning, and practicing to take it all to a new, and perhaps unknown “new level.”

Watching tennis is going to continue to be exciting. Bet on it!

The one constant is that “…things change!”  What’s new in 20014-15?

I do believe that Chet Murphy was right in concluding that the “old timers” (myself included) were right about most of the “classic teaching methods.

In “The Little Green Book of Tennis” I tried, as Mr. Penick stated, he tried, to give the best of the best information.  What worked and was time-honored, helpful coaching.  Mr. Leighton got me started.  Practical experience gathered through forty years of coaching and observing college tennis, and in particular small College tennis, was a strong influence.  Jim Verdieck was a heck of a role model for me and many others.

I hope to keep learning and advise others to do the same.

From Play Is Where Life Is:  “ Coach Verdieck told me that three times he had lights approved for the university courts. Somehow the school procrastinated every time they said yes. Later he found out that when he’d tell his wife the lights were to be installed, she nixed the deal. She simply went to the administrators saying, “If you put lights up, he’ll stay there all night, and I’ll leave him.”

His roster included twenty-four players – a very large team. Not only that, each week every player in the top eight had an hour private lesson with Verdieck. Sixteen remaining players got a half hour per week with him. This, in addition to team responsibilities.

Upon learning he’d retired at age 65 I called to congratulate him. He was within sixty or so wins of 1,000 wins. No one else is close. “Did you consider staying until you break that barrier,” was one of my questions. “No, I promised my wife if I got sixty-five I’d stop. A deal’s a deal.”

Though he quit coaching he couldn’t give up teaching. I asked Coach Verdieck early on if he knew Dennis Van Der Meer?   Not only is Van Der Meer the world’s most prolific tennis teacher, he was very close to my mentor, Jim Leighton. Verdi eck said, “know Dennis”? I taught him 90% of what he knows!”

When I asked Coach Leighton if he knew Coach Verdieck, he said no. I told him of the Verdieck comment about Dennis Van Der Meer. Leighton was appalled, and said he intended to ask Dennis about that!

A couple of years went by and I asked Leighton if he’d asked about Verdieck. Leighton admitted that Dennis had responded, “Yes, that’s probably about right.”

In retirement Verdieck worked with Dennis at Sweetbriar College, in the mountains of Virginia. I called Coach Verdieck and asked if I could hire him. “What for”, he asked.

I told him I wanted to know more about coaching, and that he was the one who I most


Still not convinced, he said his knees has gotten so bad he couldn’t move enough to hit many balls. I replied, “Coach, I just want to talk with you.”

He contended he didn’t talk much, but to come on and we’d probably be done in thirty minutes.

My wife went with me and waited patiently for three and a half hours. “Tom, we have to set the babysitter free at 8:00 p.m.”

You’re never to old to learn, and I learned a lot that day.

When I became Director of Athletics the first thing I did was book an hour with five different athletic directors I admired.

Someone said “…a short pencil is better than a long memory!”  One of the first things I noticed about CoachVerdieck was that he was constantly taking notes during his players matches.  Most tennis coaches at that time just wandered around (we couldn’t talk to our players during the match then) and socialized.  Not Verdieck.

Technology is changing everything today.  We didn’t have metal rackets to begin with.  Jim didn’t have a ball hopper, but a big red bag full of balls.  One year his team lost by one point, as one of his players missed a high forehand volley.  As we began to exit the courts I noticed Verdieck walking with that young man to a court farthest away carrying the red bag of balls. Intrigued, I told our players to watch as Coach Verdieck dutifully set up practice shots like the volley just missed. “Every match is preparation for another match”.

Rackets have changed the game.  And strings.  Who knows what technology holds but I doubt if anything will be much more helpful than a good coach.

I think the rackets allow shorter, more compact shots.  And that this is helpful particularly with mid court shots. (Doubles, service returns, approach shots, volleys)

One negative with racket technology is that the added pace they yield causes the player to have to move more rapidly, more often, more awkwardly; thus causing more injury. Therefore the role of conditioning and the necessity for good trainers and rehab have exploded.

Parity—-too—-caused much more intense effort at the elite levels (Junior Champions, College players, and certainly at the professional level.)

We used to stress “accuracy first, power later”.  I’m not sure it’s bad advice now to train talented kids to “hit it hard, hit for the lines, and “damn the torpedoes”.

If I taught a 2015 talented youngster I might suggest:

  1. Use a Western grip for all deep forehand shots
  2. Use the backhand to Continental grip (s)  for every other shot.  It is the most versatile and functional grip.
  3. You must change your western forehand to this universal grip to volley, hit most forehand approach shots, and short, low forehands.
  4. See Danny and the Forehand chip return (blog 27).

I would emphasize “hitting-on-the-rise” for all good players, and more so for the talented ones.  why?

  1. it “takes court away from your opponent
  2. It puts pressure on your opponents
  3. It creates “lousy hit-spots that yield errors or weak returns.
  4. It takes away “big shots” that your opponent has hit
  5. It gets you to the net
  6. It is your only good option against most high quality shots.  Particularly services.

My teams would practice “inside the lines” games.  OR you rally or volley only from inside the court.  If you step outside (deep or wide) the boundaries, you lose the point.  Play to “21”.  I put 5 in play on a bounce hit, then you get 5.  Everything then—-inside the lines only.  (hint—you can volley!)

I would emphasize Coach Verdieck’s “2 and in” attack.  He marked at a square from the baseline corner.  2 steps in from the baseline, two steps in from the sideline.  As you rally practice come to the net if your sound ground shot will land in this deep square.  He also marked a second smaller square inside the first  (one step in from each line)  Come in on any shot that will land that deep.

This is another way to attack,  rather than an approach shot. 

**Note: This does  create an odd angle to come in on, and you must also practice this unusual position when you decide to “2 and in”.  This works!  *****More on this tactic and FEDERER’S improvement later.

No question that ground strokes are becoming more “open”,and “wristy”, and that rolling the wrist and elbow over during the hit zone work (Just not too soon or loosely).  Borg was the evidence for the new forehand, but he had a lot of respect for “the moment of hit” and the “six ball hit zone”.  Then let it fly!!

Some teachers had a tough time watching this evolution.  Maybe we learned each has their own way.  Let them make choices when things are 50/50.

I watched one of Coach Leighton’s varsity players use a forehand that violated much of Leighton’s fundamental thought.  I asked “are you gonna let him keep playing that way?”  He simply said “watch him hit it!”  “Boom, boom, boom!  Then coach said: “if a flaw works don’t change it”.

Michael Jordan explained that he shot with his tongue out because that’s the way his Dad worked on his car.  A “mannerism” that doesn’t bother anything.

I classified players this way:

  1. “Look bad, play bad”
  2. “Look good, play bad”
  3. “Look bad, play good”
  4. “Look good, play good.

Brad Gilbert was talking about #3 in “Winning Ugly”.  They will fool you!  

For professional men the 2007-2014 period belonged to a great group (Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray.)  Great role models with individual styles and strategies.

Who would have predicted the US Open 2014 Men’s Final (Marin Cilic vs Kei Nishikori)

Much changes, much stays the same.  Please keep the learning going.  Be adaptable, but again———-don’t neglect history and the fine teachers like Harvey Penick, Jm Leighton and Jim Verdieck

****JULY 2018 A few recent”add-ons”:

The latest edition of GOLF DIGEST features an article extolling the virtues of PICKLEBALL.  Not only allowing it on base, but citing all the golfers who are now playing this growing game.  If the game will get golfers running it must have some worth.  Having plugged the game for years, I suggest interested parties read blog numbers 209, 188, 168, 187, 184, 149 for starters.  To summarize two “no-brain” suggestions:  The USTA SHOULD BUY THE RIGHTS TO PICKLEBALL.  2.  Pickleball should adjust its rules so ordinary tennis net heights are the same for pickleball.  This makes any courts suitable once $100 lines are added to each court.

All hail John Isner.   Not only American, a college graduate, from neighboring Greensboro ( which allow me to watch him develop), but his personal virtues merit true appreciation.  Super improvement this season!!!!  Plus he aided the acknowledgement of shortening some formats.

ISNER brings up my “hackalooski gene”.  (From golfers, a hackalooski is a bad player advising a good player, or great player.   John’s great improvement this year stirred the coaching or hack in me.  For years, rooting for John, I wanted to whisper to John, “…forget  long rallies, bomb the return, groundies, and passing shots.  Hold serve and “go for it” on the above mentioned.  It seemed apparent that John adapted that philosophy and it really  got results.  (for more see blog 122).

Twas said of Ted Williams,  “…Gods don’t answer letters”.  Fed is as near to a tennis god as we have seen.  Yet has continually added positives.  The “sneak attack by Roger” was perfection of Coach Verdieck’s “2 and in play”  (see ****above! )   Commentators have raved about his service return lately and it is great, albeit  the bread and butter return is a basic slice or underspin backhand.  Roger just  improved his chip return.  Again Verdieck and  “I didn’t change anything, I gave you a new one” (blog 59).  I think one handed backhands  and services are hard to teach –and learn–(particularly for girls, women and youngsters)  because you have to change grips.  Remember 1.  check your grip at  the hit-spot.  2.  grip must match stroke or, if you change your grip you need to change your stroke.  Please check  blog 203 and 222   for a great way to teach the one handed chip shot.  And a backhand volley.

As an old coach I can’t resist two individual “hacks” .  John Isner–I truly believe you can develop a topspin lob off either side that would serve your game well.

Forgive me Roger, but I don’t think you played  30-0 and 40-15 points with enough intensity.  While you made up for that possibility by playing so well from behind, the coach in me felt like you played loosely on some of  those killer points.   Only you know and I’d love to know what you think.

3. To  all of tennis.  I was spot on about drop shots and defending against drop shots. Much more widely used, executed, and defended in recent years.  (See blogs 132, 172,157).   It took me too long to see that players can execute swinging volleys on certain shots.  These volleys are more powerful.


5.  HEAD INJURIES IN SPORT.  A growing problem.  Since my earlier writing it now seems  anyone who charges admission to a football game is subject to litigation (colleges, junior colleges, high schools, JVs, recreation teams.)  SCARY!

6.  COLLEGE ATHLETICS IN AMERICA.  SEE BLOGS 208, 46, 53, 85, 139, 157, 161, 199.