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).

1960-1985 RENOVATION (406)

“…70 maybe the new 60, but 80 is still 80!”

I went Atlantic Christian College in Wilson, NC. from 1959-1963. Worked there for 20 years. They changed the name of the school to Barton College in the late 80’s.
In 1985 I went to Elon College.Their mascot the Fightin’ Christian was subsequently changed to the Phoenix. A friend observed “…Parham has worked at two schools and they took “Christian” out of both names!” My Father, a Southern Baptist Minister, probably sat up in his grave. My Mom was the church pianist and choir director. She told me not to sing the hymns, she could hear my young monotone voice over the whole crowd. I never sang again.
I love music. Just no talent. Still I absorbed the Broadman Hymnal songs and words and challenged the world to a “hymnal lyrics test” (Baptist hymns only) in one of my bestsellers. Lost only to my Sister, who pointed out an error on the test.
All churches have their own ritualistic favorites. My Dad sang the doxology, “Blessed be the tie that bind our hearts in Christian love”. Very often there was a “community prayer”.
Fifty plus years ago (1964 and 1965), the college built Wilson Gym on the campus—my first years working there. Last night Barton held a special evening for those who contributed to the renovation of the main gym floor. First class night and a first class reworking of this old girl and her lifetime of memories.
Most of the money was given by my peers, teammates, townspeople. And, as the dignitaries thanked those in attendance, I noted with pride how many made the effort to be there. The oldest were octogenarians plus.
Earlier I wrote MY summary of our athletic programs for OUR years (1960-1985).
See Below:

Pivotal Sports Moments and Memories

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, Appalachian, 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 volleyball 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 11 conference 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.”

The President noted that I was instrumental in urging (he said “harassing”) the donors. Gazing at these friends I remembered the Baptist community prayer. I constructed a modified version to fit the occasion:
“We pray for the recently departed (that’s the dead).
We pray for the very sick (that’s the dying).
We pray for the elderly, the shut-ins and the shook-ups.”
The room fit the prayer in no small part.

Thanks again. Go Dawgs!


We moved to Madison, NC when I was four. In two weeks the late Billy Fulton and similarly late, Sterling (Tuddy)Webster, were sidekicks for life. The Websters were next door and my first stop to collect them for the day. So as I crawled through the secret tunnel we’d made I noticed their neighbor’s garage was burned to the ground.”What happened to Miss Carrie’s garage?” I asked the whole stunned family as they watch smoldering smoke circle upwards from the ashes.
I grabbed Tuddy aside. ???? “Craig did it. He was hiding in her garage, smoking.”
Relieved it wasn’t Tuddy or Billy, I wondered about Craig. I knew there was a family with Craig (14?) and O’neil (18), who I’d heard “… that older one is a good guy, but watch out for Craig, he’s nuts.”
“Who is Craig, anyway?” I asked Tuddy.”He’s my first cuzzin.” Age 7, I wasn’t sure about genealogy.
When I got home My mom asked what all the excitement about? “Craig burned down Miss Carrie’s garage.”
What? Repeat. Report. Then I asked my also stunned Mother,”… Momma, what is a cuzzin? Do I have a cuzzin? Does it have to be a boy? Staccato to still reeling Geneva Phillps Parham.
Mom : Yes, you have several cousins.
Me: Who?
Mom: well, Aunt Mary’s Son, Ed, is one.
Me: Is he the first cousin?
Mom: Well, actually he is!
Me. Is he going to burn our garage down?
Mom: (laughs)
Me: What’s so funny? Do I have a second cuzzin? A third? Who are they? Are they dangerous as the Websters.
The total explanation took a while, but Mom did a pretty good job sorting it all out.
So the “Norfolk Phillips” are all first cuzzins–Jack, Henry, Eileen, and Mary Anita? We didn’t travel the then prohibitive journey to Tidewater often. But they travelled well as a group and always made better efforts than the rest of us. So fortunately I knew them enough to be proud they were my cuzzins, as I liked all four and they belonged to Uncle Lindsey. Uncle Lindsey was the youngest sibling of my Mom and her several sisters. Being last and male, Lindsey was messed up. From a bunch of Primitive Baptists, Lindsey escaped with a sense of humor and a taste for the kind of attitude that tickled me. And his siblings, Geneva, Aunt Olive, and Aunt Mary. We all looked to Lindsey for laughs and crafts (He could build anything, including home made toys for the kids. Cuzzins included.)
I’m losing too many. Jack just died after fighting the dreaded one, Alzheimer’s disease. He was the closest age wise to me and I liked talking to Jack. I am sad for Jack, but proud of my first cousins, who lovingly did all they could.


Danny Talbott lost his war with cancer. Many thought he’d win. He won every thing else. Danny was a baptist preacher’s kid. In the 1960’s in North Carolina he was legendary. His pre-integration time called for every able bodied, red blooded male to play football. Most added basketball and baseball, as did Danny. Tennis and golf were for sissies. No one had heard of soccer. Maybe Pele. No girls allowed.
Coach Henry Trevathan coached Danny in Rocky Mount, NC. He said Danny was like another coach on the field. And not just in football. Rocky Mount won state titles in football, then basketball, then baseball, then football again the next year.
I was a “Peacock” in 1963/64. Danny’s freshman year at UNC-Chapel Hill. Peacocks were so called as our graduate school advisor was the beloved Dr. Bill Peacock. There were thirty college grads who taught the UNC freshman classes. I was teaching a basketball class on the Woolin Gym floor when Jack Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Having lived in Wilson,NC, 18 miles from Talbott and Rocky Mt., I knew of his career. And told my fellow Peacocks who were mostly unaware of his feats. Freshman were ineligible then, and my colleagues hardly believed my hype. As basketball arrived Danny changed uniforms like a superhero. Shoulder pads for sneakers even after basketball and the remarkable Bobby Lewis show had started. All my buddies were there to watch Lewis. When they inserted Danny into the lineup, I loudly alerted them to his entry. Sure enough he was shortly on the foul line with two free throws. Nothing but foul lane, 1 and 2. howls and chagrin. Exit Danny until the game’s end, when fouled out Tar Heels dictated his reentry.
Sure enough, with one point down and seconds on the clock, there is Talbott on the line, with game on the line. Swish goes #1, swish #2, Game Talbott.
Come spring time there he is on the diamond, first year of an outstanding college baseball career. He later told me, “…I probably should have pursued pro baseball.”
Danny was easy to like. Big smile, rosy/rusty cheeks that glowed. Made you feel great. Bobby Dunn and I are friends and he and Danny were very close. When Danny went into sales after pro football, Bobby said he missed competition and was considering tennis. Send him over, I suggested.
Low and behold here he came to our college courts. Coat and tie abandoned for shorts and racket, on the run.
Danny was ambidextrous. He was hitting groundstrokes left handed forehand and backhand. His beginning shots looked good to me. “Why are you so discouraged?” I asked him.
“Watch this serve” he whimpered. He was correct. I never thought I’d see Danny Talbott look awkward at anything, but this was pretty awful to watch. He tried a couple of more serves. Then the duh? moment. Left-handed serve?
“Danny, aren’t you the quarterback that holds the NCAA record for 28 out o32 pass completions in the EAST/WEST All-Star game?” A puzzled “yes”. Did you throw them left handed ? Well, no of course.
Below is the quickest, most productive lesson I taught in my career:
1. The serve is a throw. Put the racket in your right hand. Turn your grip a little this way (“first knuckle, first bevel”). Now serve it like a throw.
2. Your wrist action at hit moment is much like a fast ball or slider is thrown.

I’m not sure if it was the first serve he tried, but I know it was before the fourth, that repeated ace like rockets zoomed over the net. I know he wanted to stop and thank me but he was having too much fun, I was too. So, I’d toss him a ball and a big “thump” would echo. I only asked about the grip, as that action is hard to see? “Yeah, fastball, slider, I got it!”
He would show up with questions and conversations. Eventually he played right handed while serving, left-handed on both ground strokes. On overheads he hit ones on the right, right-handed. The ones on the left, left handed.
It wasn’t long before I was getting reports that he was right in the middle of NC senior tennis tournaments. And, later, he did a similar thing with golf, becoming an accomplished player there too.
The last time I saw him was a year ago in Wilson’s DICK’S HOT DOG STAND. He was with a man I didn’t know, but later Danny said was his “cancer doctor”. “We go out to eat once a month”.
Rocky Mount named their hospital’s new cancer center after Danny Talbott.

Danny was so gracious with me. He always said “…that’s my tennis coach, he made my game.” But I always knew the “Big Coach” made Danny. He made a masterpiece.
PS–you guys who play sports up there. He’s coming. But you better be ready. He’s competitive.



I am collecting more and more Doctors. Hard to keep up with dates, names, drugs,etc. Who can keep up with drug names? Now I just name the by color: yellow-.81 aspirin is ticker. every other day is purple or heartburn. Three whites–big, medium and small are poppa, momma and baby bear.

The names game began in the last town I lived in. Collecting Physicians to go with maladies came out like this:
My dentist named Crouch became “Ouch” Crouch.
Dermatolgist named Patterson i.e. “Dr. Splattersome”.
Urologist named Ben or “Dr. Bendover”. Easy one!
Pharmacist named Phil or “Refill”
Dr. Bates was called Master.


Billy’s lying was just accepted by us. He was always making things up. He listened to the radio and all the “green hornet” adventure programs of that day were great for his imagination. He introduced us to Jonathan Winters, the 9 cent movies at the Patovi Theatre, dirty jokes, but most of all to Uncle Louie. More in a moment.

Once Opal wouldn’t let him out of the house, saying he was grounded for ly- ing. Perhaps this was my first knowledge of a “child psychologist”, as we were told he was being counseled for lying.

Years later Billy admitted how this all unfolded, and this account was later told at his funeral, attended by his mom.

In those days there were “carnivals” and just the sort of thing Billy craved. He convinced his mom that if she’d let him attend he’d never lie again. Cautiously Opal gave him 25 cents. Fifteen cents got him in the gate. A peanut stand at the entrance got the dime. Today it would not be allowed but in 1948 a “monkey” (really a 70 pound baboon) was chained to an iron stake, right next to the peanuts. The baboon held out his hand. Billy gave him a peanut. One for Billy, one for the monkey. What fun! The problem arose at the bottom of the bag, when it was empty. Billy held out his hands to show the baboon it was empty. At that point Billy swears the baboon grabbed his hands and beat the living hell out of him. All of a sudden the carnival manager runs up to him and kicks him out for “disturbing his baboon”. The next scene has Billy only 20 minutes out of “time out” standing on his porch, bleeding, crying, dirty, and clothes ruined. Opal, hearing him, runs to the door: “Billy, what in the world happened to you?”. Momma, a monkey beat me up”. Opal: “You’re lying and get back in your room.”

Opal Fulton, my mom and Irene. Opal endeared herself to me when she shot- gunned Billy’s bicycle punctured inner tube, thinking it was a black snake.


Someone just mailed me a rough e-mail post that seemed over the top by any standard. To classify Al Gore and everyone who believes in climate change as a “bunch of turds” seems wrong to even type.
I read AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH when it came out in 2006. Saw the film. The one stunning fact that most impressed me was the graph that showed the abrupt spike in the earth’s warming years 1980–2006. The spike was almost straight up, while the combined years before cars were almost dead even. Today the Raleigh News and Observer stated this year was the warmest ever in North Carolina.
Someone has suggested cow farts as the cause of the earth’s warming. I was reminded in last night’s poker game that that the earth itself has been here billions of years. Humans a lot less.
If cow farts are the villains, and many fear mankind’s extinction without change,–does that mean farmer Jones has got to gun down Daisy?
Gore’s book and realization are worth revisiting. The whole book lays it out. I cite one paragraph:
“The truth about global warming is especially inconvenient and unwelcome to some powerful people and companies making enormous sums of money from activities they know full well will have to change dramatically in order to ensure the planet’s viability.”
Viability? (“the ability to live or survive successfully”). Would you give up hamburger, milk, dairy products if cow farts will kill us all?
Here it is: And it ain’t cow farts. Candidate Gore couldn’t come right out in 2006. Now we know. It is gas. Petroleum, Petrol. The oil industry.
Why would anyone argue against the evidence? To save their industry? I don’t know. Other than money.
In the south cars are sacred. Give up my mustang? “Out of my cold dead hands” again. Without change it’ll be dead hands for everybody.
What would be the price of changing all gas driven machines to another harmless source. Think back, would you give up those two old cars you traded in 15 years ago to save your family, mankind, that grandchild?
Think Americans can’t build you an electric car or such as good as Old Betsy? They are here now. Price to change what we drive? Turn in Betsy? What in the world will that cost?
It doesn’t matter.