There were four coaches there including me. Coach Leighton rolled up with rackets & balls. He wore traditional white and it matched his hair. He looked like “Colonel Sanders”.
After pleasantries and introductions he began speaking in a new language. Two puzzled coaches left in ten minutes. The other at noon. Coach Leighton was a master teacher, and my first introduction to someone that knowledgeable about the game. I was fascinated. One of his players, Paul Caldwell, was with him. When the other guy left, leaving only me, I was embarrassed, both by how much Leigh- ton knew, plus my own misjudgment about my greatness: I offered to abandon the afternoon session. I was delighted and impressed as Coach responded, “Tom, we’ve agreed to stay until 4:00. I can tell you are interested in learning. As long as you’ll stay, we’ll stay.”
Our college offered two hundred dollars per year for “professional growth” at convention trips. I never again spent mine on anything but my new mentor. Coach Jim Leighton. He would try to refuse my money, but I’d have paid triple.
I was in his home, at his club, at his varsity practices, watching tapes on every- thing from his current players to sequential pictures of Ellsworth Vines.
He had just completed “Inside Tennis: Techniques of Winning.” This book, much of the information by Leighton himself, also included contributions by Den- nis Van Der Meer, Welby Van Horn, Chet and Bill Murphy, Wayne Sabin, Pauline Betz Addie and others.
I loved Leighton and the book. I had so many questions. I’d book time on his Buena Vista Road home in Winston-Salem. We’d talk about the book, with explanations by Coach Leighton. I felt like Moses on the Mount.
The USTA held our annual Teacher’s Convention just prior to the US Open in Flushing Meadow. One year Jim and I made all most every session. Every coach seemed to want to use his session to further his tennis standing. At one session Leighton’s bullshit detector kicked in.
A coach was trying to sell a lame idea as the end of all tennis instruction; Leighton politely questioned the man’s premise.
The clinician sloughed off this old white-haired guy’s puzzlement.
Again coach queried: “I want to make sure I’m understanding what you’re saying.” An abrupt “am I not speaking plainly enough?” Selling the same lame premise, the clinician was startled when Leighton rose and stated: “Sir, you are addressing the tennis teachers of American and beyond. Never have I heard such a crock of baloney.”
He turned to me and said “Get up Tom, we’re getting out here!” I followed beside him.
One day at the New York host hotel he asked, “Do you want to hear someone who knows tennis? Sure! “Meet me in the lobby at 6:30 AM for breakfast.”
I joined Coach and Chet Murphy in a downtown café. Chet and Bill Murphy were Californians who knew the biomechanics of tennis. I’d heard Chet Murphy as a clinician. He seemed nervous, my having heard so much about him, but once the first technical question was asked, he was off and running. This morning Leighton did something I’d never seen him do. He deferred to Murphy, asking questions the way I’d asked of him. And while there was great mutual, respect. I’ve got to say Murphy was impressive.
I was all ears. This was a time when all kinds of research was being done in tennis. I was pleased with the next question asked by Coach Leighton. “Chet, how do you feel about what we’ve done?” (Meaning the old time proponents of “classic” tennis instruction.)
Chet thought a moment and said: We should have let them hit more western grip forehands. Other than that everything was right.”
Coach Leighton was buried the day the “Jimmy Powell Tennis Center” was dedicated at Elon in 1988. It was in Wait Chapel on the campus that had named their stadium after this fine man, coach and friend.

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