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).


Small college teachers often have colleagues’ children in their classes.  They are often the brightest is the class or’ “the others”.  Love for colleagues, or the realization that one of your own may be one of “the others” breeds special attention to the “not yets”.

Recently I talked to John Sanford, son of legendary “Doc” Sanford, our baseball  coach and my department chairperson.   Doc and I changed schools.  He came from Elon to Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College, and later I moved to Elon.  One day at Elon Doc called saying he was bringing 12 year old son,  John,  to visit Elon.  I made preparations.

Doc came to Atlantic Christian because of a bitter turf battle with the  Elon basketball coach, the irascible  Bill Miller.  Vying  over services of Richard Such, future baseball Hall of Famer caused the tift.

Elon’s gym housed a hosting room, the Huey Room, where they displayed Elon’s athletic greats, or Hall of Fame members.   Large pictures of members were  hung on the wall in no order.  Before Doc’s impending tour I crept into the Huey Room and rearranged the pictures, putting Doc right beside Coach Miller.

After greeting Doc and John I escorted them down to the the shrine, all the way extolling the athletic prowess of his father to young John.  As we entered and squared away at the pictures I interrupted my praise.: “Oh my god , Doc!  They’ve got you up there by Miller!”

Doc said: “… yeah- move me down there by” Peahead” Walker!”

I asked John if he remembered that visit some thirty years ago?   “Like it was yesterday”.  he added, “..Coach, thanks for helping all us faculty kids.”





Pivotal Sports Moments and Memories 1959-1985

Symbols are important to athletes.   In the early years I spent as a student , and later as a coach, the BOHUNK BUCKET was “…to die for!” As described in detail in BARTON COLLEGE—Our Century, historian Dr. Jerry McClean details this prize as “…a common wooden bucket”, retained by winners of contests between then Atlantic Christian College and East Carolina college. (AC HIGH SCHOOL vs ECTC). This symbol“…served as a strong incentive to players and fans of the schools. Resulting in hotly contested games and close scores”.

In the early 60’s our sister schools in the North State Conference included East Carolina, Appalachain, Western Carolina, Elon, High Point, Catawba, Lenoir Rhyne, Guilford and varying others. The then symbol of excellence was the Hawn Trophy, named after commissioner , Joby Hawn. A point system determined a league all sports winner.

Our school was low key in money and commitment   Granted there were bright moments, but our 8th of 8 finishes in the Hawn race for more than ten years straight, pointed directly to the proverbial “cows-tail.” Two facilities built in the early 60’s changed this, and my life; the gym and the tennis courts.

In 1972 the college hired David Adkins as the Athletics Director. He also was to coach the newly added soccer team.   David was a quiet leader and a hard worker.   Still he took his licks too, early on.   His first two teams were 1-22.   Team three, however, was 7-5 , featuring a corner turning coach, and some players who had paid their dues.   Adkins teams became the powerhouse of the conference and our district of the NAIA.   Adkins and his players were influential ambassadors for soccer’s development in Wilson and eastern North Carolina.

There was a “bell cow” effect.   Coach Carole Mckeel’s   women’s basketball team won its first conference. title.   Women’s volley team became a “tough out” in league play. The colorful Jack “Doc” Sanford finished his career coaching baseball, his first love.   A delightful leader in his seventieth year, Doc led a special group of youngsters to another formerly rare conference title. During this period Men’s tennis won 11conference titles and two NAIA team tennis championships (1979 and 1984). The first in North Carolina history.   “This proves to our students we can compete with anybody.”

Indeed a new culture was born in the 70’s ,   No more clear-cut evidence was there than the Hawn trophy finishes.   Coach Adkins’ years featured a steady climb in the final standings, While Adkins later entered the private business world, the year after he resigned the college job, the Bulldogs finished a historical #2 Hawn finish.. The year after that they won the outright claim to top sports program in this highly competitive conference.   Subsequently there was a three years stretch of Hawn winners.

Gyms and tennis courts and leaders are important.   The college gym was named Wilson/Alumni Gymnasium. I am grateful to the town and alumni.   And for David Adkins.

cornerstones (366)

Losing close friends and colleagues is tough.   David  Adkins was both.  He served as Athletics Director at Atlantic Christian College/ now Barton College.

David was admired in many ways.  In our world of college athletics judgement centers first on wins and losses.  And for Athletics Directors the league all-sports trophy  is the measurement.  As it was in our conference , the Carolinas Conference.  Joby Hawn was the man the trophy was named for.

The conference ranged from eight to eleven institutions over the twenty five years I was either  a student or coach at the school.    From 1959 until David was hired ACC was dead last every year in the HAWN CUP STANDINGS.  There were bright spots before but David’s leadership and hard work were pivotal.  The first men’s soccer coach, David’s first two teams won a total of 1 game.  The third year his team was 7-5 and solid.  For the next years of his tenure it was “… picnic days for teddy bears!”  With the new kids on the block kicking their way to conference and district and regional titles.   David ushered in this new found game of soccer and soon the whole area was sold on the game. And David.  Me too.   Soon Carole Mckeel coached the women’s basketball team to their first conference title.   Next baseball and Doc Sanford tossed in a great team that went all the way in the league.   Mens tennis won two National NAIA team titles.

David left his post to go into private business, but he left all cylinders churning, and one year later Atlantic Christian was second in the HAWN CUP STANDINGS.   The next year, not only the #1, but the trophy itself.

More importantly,  a culture was changed for good.  One subsequent period featured three top HAWN finishes in a row.   Gary Hall, an Adkins disciple, many coaches and men and women players , continued to carry the flag.   David Adkins was the cornerstone.


“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.