Bryce Holmes is professionally a chemist.  He works now for North Carolina A&T University, but his heart is on a tennis court.  Many small towns have special “tennis angels” who nurture youngsters in the game.  Lexington, N.C. had some angels and the town was one of the best “tennis towns” anywhere.  Bryce Holmes was the first black high school player at an integrated high school in North Carolina, and a good one.  I answered Bryce’s phone call one day at Elon.  He wanted to get into college coaching.  Shortened story finds Bryce helping us at Elon. He and I talked incessantly and about all kinds of things. Bryce not only was a natural coach but was and is a friend.  

But had his trepidations.  A fine college tennis player at Livingston College, he was to be inducted into their Athletics Hall of Fame.  Bryce had heard me speak a few times and wanted some advice.  “What in the world do I talk about?”  The cat was scared!

Not quickly sure what to advise Coach Holmes to speak about, the subject was dropped.  Pretty soon the subject of playing on the high school team came up again.  Bryce remembered during that period  coming home after school and finding a  rumpled paper bag on the porch. Opened he found tennis balls. All varieties of brands, colors, and ages, and wear.  “My dad gathered some old balls,”  Only Mr. Holmes denied the act.  No one could tell where they came from.  Next day, more  similar balls.   Only a neighbor has witnessed the donor this time.  

“Jake left the balls!”

Jake Braddley was the garbage man.  Everyone knew him.  Quiet, limited in some ways.  Certainly no tennis hero.

The neighbor said he asked Jake about his gifts.   Jake said he had heard about that young man wanting to make the team and Jake wanted to help.

I advised Bryce then. “Tell that at the banquet.  There won’t be a dry eye.”

Still coaching my buddy.

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