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).


“How many times have you heard someone say,

if I had his money, I’d do things my way!”

Patrick Mouratoglon,  Serena Williams’ tennis coach, said it.  The commentators missed a great chance.  Was the USTA listening closely?  His point about Co Co Gault’s win over Venus Williams was, here is another example of where great American tennis players have come from, then and now.  What better example could you want:  From Richard Williams and Venus and Serena, to 2019 Wimbledon and Co Co and her parents.   The Bryan brothers and their dad,  Isner and his mom, all the  way back to Chris Evert and her father.  Connors and mom.  McEnroe/Father.  No one gives their attention to a child like  parents.   There were five American men entered in the 2019 French Open.  Tiafoe, at #32, was the only seeded American male.  Taylor  Fritz won a first round match.  The rest lost.

For the umpteenth time,  all entities sincerely interested in developing quality American tennis players, should demand a reasonable slice of college tennis scholarships for American students.  Parents need help, a carrot at the end.


Former college tennis players
Jack Kramer, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, John McEnroe, Bob and Mike Bryant, Jim Courier, Brad Gilbert, Bill Tilden, Roscoe Tanner, Jimmy Connors, Dennis Ralston, Dick Stockton, Vitas Gerulaitis, Michael Chang, Malavai Washington, Todd Martin, Bob Lutz, Bill Talbert, Tony Trabert,, Vince Spadea, John Isner, Steve Johnson, MANY MORE.



“We could beat anybody in a gym” Doc Sanford (1984). *

Doctor Jack Sanford was standing at the entrance to the gym watching his baseball team practicing indoors, after a week of rain. I asked him how his team was going to be this year? *See quote above.

Wilson/Alumni gym was named after its two sources of funding, the town and the college. It was built in 1965/66, my second year as a teacher at Atlantic Christian College.   My first year my office was located in the bowels of the “old gym”. The physical education department chair, Ed Cloyd, would come by my office almost daily and suggest we go to the new construction site. He had designed the building and knew where every brick should go.

One day I walked to the new site alone, and met Mr Cloyd coming back toward me. He had tears in his eyes. I asked what was wrong? “They took the wall hung urinals out of the bathrooms.! You can’t clean the floor if the urinals are floor mounted”!

The new gym was his baby.

I never saw a gym that wouldn’t fill up if the door was open.   One grown neighborhood man told me “…if you ask me to leave, I will. But I’ll be back tomorrow. The only thing in life for me is basketball.”

The gym housed classes, games, intramurals, free play, indoor soccer, baseball practice, aerobics and the 12 minute run, concerts, class registrations, the Danish gymnastics team, and others too many to recall. Once a year the North Carolina symphony played for the public schools children in the gym. All day bus loads of fifth graders.   When the crowd after lunch settled in I swear you could smell what was served that day in school cafeterias.

One characteristic was the multitude of different lines in the gym. The main blue lines were for varsity basketball and wider. Red lines marked two cross-courts for free play and class instruction, Yellow lines were boundaries for six badminton courts. White for two volleyball.

I taught eight DIFFERENT classes my first semester. Intramural director and tennis coach tacked on. One class was first aid. Twenty years at 8 am, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.   I have been told about 15 times by a former first aid students that they saved someone’s life, or helped with a major injury or drowning. One student swore they saved their beloved mule with CPR.

Three days a week then, I was one of the first in the gym. The first was “Mr. B”. Mister Bowen had one eye, managed the equipment room and loved Ed Cloyd. He had eleven children, all girls. “We threw the boys away”.   He rode his bike four miles a day to open the gym at 5am. Did that at 85 years of age.

At about seven thirty a.m.(mwf) I’d enter the back door: “Mawnin Mr Tom”. “Morning Mr B.”   The next sound came from the gym floor. The ball would hit the floor, then a diminishing sound of 4 or 5 bounces.   I’d guess to myself whether it was Johnson Moore, or Russell Rawlings (the large one).

I’d say Hey,Russell. Hey coach. Or Hey Johnson, and he’d say “watch this one coach.” And there would go that two hander. How you hitting em , Johnson? I’m 2 for 22. I’m hot!

The gym housed concerts people still talk about. Fleetwood Mac, Ray Charles . I had a new pair of tennis shorts in my unlocked locker that the Tams used to shine their shoes.

Ken Cooper, founder of Aerobics spoke to the entire student body. Better still, Tom Cureton led the volunteer students in a skipping/exercise in circular fashion around the gym floor. One by one they gave out and dropped out until only the 70 year Cureton danced around in a circle. Later we heard that the same thing happened that afternoon at ECTC (now East Carolina university).

As you get older memories are about it. I left the gym in 1985. And I am sure the next years provided many similar and different memories. Gyms are good places.

They changed the name of the college to Barton College. But it’s the same gym. Only it is fifty plus years old and needs a major facelift. The college committed to a total renovation and the whole main floor is now gutted. New floor, bleachers, lighting, scoreboards, computerization, and—AIR CONDITIONING to come.

I appreciate the school’s commitment to my old friend, the gym.





The link below is to an article in ATLANTIC MAGAZINE, by Taylor Branch.

The comment following is from that article.


This sweeping shift left the Olympic reputation intact, and perhaps improved. Only hardened romantics mourned the amateur code. “Hey, come on,” said Anne Audain, a track-and-field star who once held the world record for the 5,000 meters. “It’s like losing your virginity. You’re a little misty for awhile, but then you realize, Wow, there’s a whole new world out there!


Below is an excerpt from Blog 172 (MAESTRO).  The French Open always highlights (1) lack of American men who can play on clay and (2) Dropshots.   No exceptions in 2019.  Read all of blog 172.   Bring back Charlie Owens.

“This also makes me wonder about the upward evolution of the game, and who will achieve the next level. Djokovic has almost perfected “corner to corner” baseline strategy. One thing that does seem to be growing in effectiveness is the drop shot. The old adage that “you can’t drop shot on a hard court” is being tested more at the top level.
There are four corners on each side of the court. Two are up at the net. The only player I have seen who could hit a un-returnable drop-shot from the base line was Charlie Owens. Many watched Charlie dismantle quality players with a disguised, feather like drop shot that confounded even great players. Maybe there is someone coming along with this unique touch, who combined with the other tennis skills needed will produce the next level in the never ending evolution of tennis.
Women players might be well advised to note this possibility. And to be aware that not only should she be able to hit drop shots, she must be able to defend against them. My guess is that many players and teachers have realized there are four corners on each side of a tennis court.”  (2016)


“In order to get rid of infection, you must cut the boil out.”  Coach Henry Trevathan.

In an earlier blog I used a controversial term, thugs.  (See “THUGS, blog 161 ).

I haven’t seen much to change my mind about higher education in America.  (Payment for admission,  basketball cheating,  “AAU agents”, etc.)   Put the term “spot” into academic language and it turns out ” giving admission  to an unqualified student”.  Guilty everyone.  Admit it.

Somebody turned college admission into a commodity.  See blog 352 Payment Due.

True confessions #2.   The government was the second driving factor in turning college basketball, then football, black.  The first factor was the ability of the black players.

Basketball in North Carolina is king.  Dean Smith is credited with bringing Charlie Scott to Carolina as the first black player in NC (1967).   In truth that happened earlier in the small colleges (NAIA and mostly  North State Conference members.  The first was Henry Logan of Western Carolina (1964).

Then Gene Littles at High Point, and Dwight Durante at Catawba college.  Those who witnessed those guys can tell you a new day dawned in basketball.

Among those also affected were the historically black colleges and universities  (“You guys are taking all of my players.” Clarence “Bighouse”Gaines of Winston Salem State.)

Among the many reactions to this change was the question of admissions.   When

the first hard S.A.T. restriction (700) caused us to study transcripts, I was amazed at the fact that almost all of the black kids scored from 530 to 630.  Uncanny to the point of making me wonder.

Years later the next major change required 800 SAT , core courses and class rank.

Another series of  angry howls, many from  the black community.  One exception was Arthur Ashe, who contended it was legal only if all standards were equal.  Ashe also believed if the standard was equal the black kids would achieve whatever reasonable standard was set.

Basketball coaches figured the system out quickly.  Our league members , again among the first  to integrate teams, were limited to 7 and 1/2 grants.  When the government

gave aid, some loan and some grant,  the coaches figured they could combine monies and triple their players, and enhance the team’s quality.   (Example:  Rather than giving a full grant to a non-qualified player,  they could have financial aid or the basic equal opportunity grant of about 2/3 of costs and top that off with pure scholarship aid.   Properly juggled this might yield fifteen players on full ride, rather than 7 or 8.

Watching this evolve was fascinating.  Most high schools divvied up sports with king football retaining white coaches, while admitting they had to give #2 basketball to the black folks.  Yet it did not take long for football coaches who knew they had to win to keep their jobs, to insert the youngsters so well suited for football.  Consequently, over a period of time, college football coaches employed similar formulas that added more and better players.

Is our world of higher education infected?  Is the boil athletics?   Should we not uphold the law of equality for admission. Would we not fill some slots with good kids rather than so many questionable ones.

Below is a comment from my first book,  PLAY IS WHERE LIFE IS:


You never know who you’re influencing when you coach.  The same was true for teaching in college, formal classroom or just talking to kids.

A basketball player named Damian Carter appeared in my doorway one day at Elon.  He said he rode up and down I-85 often and had planned to stop by many times.

He was in his forties, had been a pretty solid player at Atlantic Christian, having transferred from UNC-Wilmington.   At Wilmington he hadn’t played as much as he wanted.   The same was true at ACC later on, and he found his chances of pro ball weren’t going to materialize.  He was about to quit college though his grades were good.

I don’t remember the specific conversation with Damian, but it was one of fifty I’d had with basketball players.

It went like this:

    Are you the first from your family to go to college?  Often the answer was yes.

    You’re not going to make $100,000 playing pro ball, you understand?

    You can get your degree and get a very good job.  People are looking for athletic people with degrees.

    Your job is to elevate your family and its expectations one generation.  Put your money in compound interest, and expect your children to go to college.

I agreed with Damian that was the gist of what I advised the “first kids.”  Damian smiled and added, “Coach, my two daughters have college degrees, and I’ve got a million bucks in the bank!”  Compound interest.  End.  

Integration was major change.  I felt uncomfortable advising these new guys.  Until I realized I may be the only one trying to point them in the right direction.  Even now I know I haven’t walked in their shoes.

If I could gather all these grown men and women, most of who were “first generation” yet now expect their children to go to college, I would risk this advice:   You need to step up.  Granted our country did your people great injustices.  But there is no telling how many people used basketball and sports in general, to combine with federal scholarships, and “advance their families upward a generation!”  Often much more.

This scenario played out in thousands of American colleges and Universities.   Many today need the same support.   Many small schools were the ones who took these kids in.

The American public often doesn’t understand the vast differences among colleges.  Only a few of the major schools break even on athletics.  Also while some elite institutions can cause movie stars to helicopter, figuratively and literally and financially, through highly selective admission barriers, many schools are quite different.  Some admission guidelines allow you to put your suitcase in any dorm.  Many need kids went  to these schools who were and are struggling to have enough students to survive.  Then and now.

And they need your support.  Women too got tons of aid.  International athletes from all over the world got great opportunities over here.   Need me to tell them?  Okay, all you people need to pay back at whatever level you can.

Malcolm Gladwell makes an observation about college choice that I think applies particularly to athletes.  His suggestion is that those who enter whatever school, should not go where they are in the bottom third of the class.  Go to a school where you are academically in the top third and you will avoid pressures that seem to occur altogether too often, and are severely painful.  This applies socially also.


A friend advised me to never  tell my wife of poker winnings or losings .  “They all think that money comes out of their clothing allowance!”

The late Worden Allen told me of his first attempt at fund-raising at our small college in rural eastern North Carolina.  On his maiden trip the retiring minister/fund raiser,  Dr. Ware, suggested he would go along and show the rookie some techniques.  Dr. Ware was old and old school.  Always a black suit and narrow  tie.  Piercing eyes and a firm jaw.

Worden said he hardly noticed  Dr. Ware holding two new lead pencils in his hand on the first stop.  Dr. Ware said he knew the first prospect, a first generation graduate who was doing quite well.   As matter of fact he had provided a room in his own home so the very limited youngster could go to college.  “As we sat down to start our appeal we were told quickly that ‘…you guys might as well know I have no intention of giving the college any of my money!’ ”  Before the sound of this sentence quieted,  a new and louder sound erupted as Dr. Ware quickly reached across the  table and cracked the startled man between the eyes with the new #2 lead pencils.  “Do not tell me you are not giving to the college.  I housed you, lent you money to pay your bill, fed you food from our table!”

Silence and that stare.  And the checkbook came out.

On down highway 264 east to stop two.  “Take a left up there, Worden,  I know a guy over  in Ayden.”










For anyone who is interested in my writing, here are links to my books:

  1. THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK of TENNIS is my opus.
  2. PLAY IS WHERE LIFE IS. My first book.
  3. A LOT ( A Level of Thinking). A mixture of serious and fun items, collected by an old coach.
  4. HELPING.  This includes more tennis, much post-THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK of TENNIS.  Much is a repetition of blog articles.  Maybe more important is the back half of this book , as it chronicles a thorough collection of data on the issue (s) of international college tennis players in the USA.  The history of this ongoing  problem is here.
  5. THANKSGIVING.  This is a hard copy of selected blog articles, writings, family history.  Personal pictures in the back are beach and family/friend/fish oriented.
  6. NEARLY FIFTY.   My friend, Earl  (Country) Boykin of Rock Ridge, N.C,  hosted a  “duck hunting party” for fifty – one years continuously.   It started with the first super bowl. We moved to Back Creek near Bath, N.C.  and did run over a duck. From there to Emerald Isle, N.C. The book reviews, through print and pictures, the principal characters, and some of the events.