The Juke Box

My first job paid $4600 a year in 1964. The only affordable housing I could find was a back room at Mae Hollowell’s Beauty Shop. A plumber named Luther Goff occupied the other rented room. Luther liked philosophy aided by Ancient Age and whiskey, “Sex won’t kill you, but running after it will wear you down.”

Joe Robinson, Carolina tight-end on the 1963 Gator Bowl, was rooming with a Tar Heel family. They charged him $5 a week. Joe and I decided to look for an affordable bachelor’s pad.

I found one. In a new concept for Wilson, North Carolina, Briarcliff Apartments were new and quite nice. My good friend, Jean Peake, suggested I move in with a guy named Phil Nordan. Phil was a liquor salesman.

We were having a great time, car, Briarcliff, twenty-six years old and coaching. I was paid little. Sometimes that bothered me, but mostly I was doing okay.

Then a bump. Joe got drafted. Phil got married. I was back on the street.

I moved into all I could afford. Varita Court, downtown Wilson. I slept on a chaise lounge until Jean heard about me. She sold me two single beds for $12.50 each from hospital storage. The beds and the jukebox were my only furniture.

The juke box featured a green light bulb. I located it so I could sit on the fire escape and throw beer cans at the Shell Station chimney located below me. “Like a Rolling Stone” was #1, “ A Whiter Shade of Pale”, “Since I Lost My Baby,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and other great 60’s music were my roomies. I was very lonely. The total utility bill was $3.48 one month.

I was the only male in the three story building, in apartment “R”. There was an elevator with a stroke-ridden black man named Jesse sitting in it all day. Most of the tenants were widows. They peered out their doors as I put the jukebox on Jesse’s elevator. Jesse giggled.

Everyone ought to live alone for some period in their lives. It’s not all bad, but I didn’t like it in Varita Court.

–excerpt from “Play is Where Life Is”

The jukebox mentioned in this passage was a “god-send” of sorts.

One of our basketball stars was a young man named Larry Jones. Jones was called “Chief” because he was a handsome, “Indian-looking,” 6 foot 5 inch, 210 pound stud from Mt. Olive. I casually mentioned that I would like to find a jukebox. Maybe that would help with my loneliness in Varita Court. Jones said, “I’ll find you a jukebox.”

A week later he said he’d found one.
“How much do they want for it?” I asked.
Surprised he asked, “You want to pay for it?!”

We did find one, to buy, for $100 from a black guy named Kay Wooten in Fremont, North Carolina. It was a 1945 AMI Woolden. Not the Wurlitzer Double Bubble Circler but it would play. Loud. It was too big to mount in a Corvette, but I do believe that I could have competed with the Wilson “Boom Boxes of 1968”.

I painted it red and kept it throughout my kids’ stay with us. When they left, I sold it to my good friend Bill Morningstar, the golf coach at Elon. “Star” is a pinhook, he’ll buy anything. Mostly old cars. He painted it black. Macho. And he still has it.

You could rotate 40 records. The list below are some of the AMI Selections of 1968-1988.

1. Like a Rolling Stone-Bob Dylan
2. Cleo’s Mood-Jr. Walker and the All-Stars
3. Whiter Shade of Pale-Procol Harem
4. Since I Lost My Baby-The Temptations
5. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down-Joan Baez
6. Yesterday-Ray Charles
7. The Weight-Jackie DeShannon
8. Light My Fire-Jose Feliciano
9. Any Day Now-Chuck Jackson
10. Ain’t That Loving You Baby-Jimmy Reed
11. Silver Threads and Golden Needles
12. Walk On By-Dionne Warwick
13. I’ll Be Doggone-Marvin Gaye
14. Hey Joe-Jimi Hendrix
15. Sweet Baby James-James Taylor
16. Rescue Me-Fontella Bass
17. Baby Love-The Supremes
18. Good Golly Miss Molly-Little Richard
19. Don’t Be Cruel-Elvis Presley
20. Fire Lake-Bob Seger
21. What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am-The Tams
22. Born to Run-Emmylou Harris
23. Get Rhythm-Johnny Cash
24. Get Back-The Beatles
25. Honky Tonk Women-The Rolling Stones
26. I Still Miss Someone-Emmylou Harris
27. He Stopped Loving Her Today-George Jones
28. Knock On Wood-Eddie Floyd
29. Take Out Some Insurance-Jimmy Reed
30. Little Help From My Friends-Joe Cocker
31. Lay, Lady, Lay-Bob Dylan
32. Roll Me Away-Bob Seger
33. Still the Same-Bob Seger
34. Stand By Me-Ben King
35. America-Ray Charles
36. Georgia-Ray Charles
37. Busted-Ray Charles
38. Maybeline-Chuck Berry
39. Somewhere Over the Rainbow-Jerry Lee Lewis
40. I’m Walking-Fats Domino
41. Jim Dandy-Lavern Baker
42. Rave On-Buddy Holly

“Music can save your very soul.”
-Don McLean, “American Pie”

Letter to the USGA

77 Liberty Corner Road
PO Box 708
Far Hills, NJ 07931-0708

Attention: Marcia Luiges (Women’s Committee)

Having coached tennis for forty years, and being a high handicap golfer, I tend to compare the two games. My wish is to offer some hopefully constructive criticism to golf.

Suggestion one: Confront your two biggest problems, someone in front of you and someone behind you. The ability of players and the difficultly of the course are the main variables in delaying someone or waiting for someone. Europeans require certification of ability to play. Yet in America, we have one hundred plus scorers teeing up from “the tips”. Shouldn’t people play further up to play faster?

Why not? For example, if you shoot a certain certified score, you play from that tee. Many average males could play from the senior tees and still shoot 110. Why do men have 3 or 4 tee positions and women only 1? Shouldn’t pro women play from different tees than beginning women? Having a foursome of different teeing starts will take little extra time comparatively. Maybe golf shouldn’t have “seniors” or “women’s” tees at all but tees determined by ability.

From what I have heard, many golf courses are struggling to make it financially. Maybe this is why so many rangers are hesitant to confront slow players. My guess is the opposite; if the pace were better controlled, business would pick up.

Speaking of golf’s other struggle, finances, perhaps more “women-friendly” courses would be helpful. Who better than women to grow the number of paying customers during the week. Yet it appears that golf shoots itself in the foot when it comes to encouraging women’s play. Women’s college golf is begging for competent women players. Scholarships are waiting due to Title IX. When the “macho” guys complain about women, it runs them off. Many women are self-conscious about having people wait, particularly if they are forced to play from unrealistic tees. Private, public and municipal facilities might well create a real booming market for women by:

1. Encouraging them
2. Teaching them
3. Designing women-friendly courses
4. Blocking time periods for play and instruction

Anyone in the American Tennis scene in the last thirty years has watched women grow their tennis population at an amazing pace.  In the Southern US, Atlanta, Georgia started a tremendous boom in women’s league play. ALTA (Atlanta’s League Tennis Association) formed teams of women at different levels of play. That has blossomed at a rate and quality that one could hardly imagine. One of their strokes of genius was to attach USTA (United States Tennis Association) membership to league play eligibility. This had a tremendous impact on national level membership and provided substantial funding and influence. Another significant by-product of league play was the influx of dedicated and qualified women into leadership roles in tennis. This bled over into areas other than league play as well such as administration, junior tennis, state, district and national influence, etc.

In conclusion: Ability tees will speed up play. Golf should hammer out the details, for example:

Possible Golf Course Design:
No Men’s, Women’s or Senior tees. Six Ability tees. Players play from where their         handicaps qualify them to play.

Tee            Par 3 (yards)               Par 4            Par 5
1.                     200                           400                525
2.                     120                           350                490
3.                     140                           325                465
4.                     110                            300                400
5.                    100                            275                 370
6.                     90                              250                320

First, Second and Third Approximate Shots (yards)

Par 3, as above

Par 4                         Par 5
1. (300-100)        1. (300-160-65)

2. (240-110)        2. (240-150-100)

3. (210-115)         3. (210-150-105)

4. (180-120)         4. (180-120-80)

5. (150-125)         5. (150-125-75)

6. (125-125)         6. (125-100-95)

Couldn’t current courses redesign themselves to fairly standard and friendly tee distances? (see chart above)

Couldn’t golf “meccas” like Myrtle Beach, Florida and California not design a course more inclusive of compatible to women? (see chart above) If there are 100 for men in an area, why not one for women?

In the future, why not design courses with women in mind? (see chart above)

My guess is that this kind of thinking has been kicked around among your organization. I have no “axe to grind”. You may use or disregard this letter any way you see fit.

“And if you play golf, you are my friend.”
-Harvey Penick


Tom Parham

Coach of the Year

When they presented me with the 1990 National “Coach of the Year” for NAIA Tennis, I tried to give it to Coach Fred Kniffen of the University of Texas at Tyler.

Fred had a firm rule in 1990 that no one rode in the van without their seat belts on. No exceptions.

En route from Tyler to Kansas City, one of the two team vans ran off a 35-foot embankment.

All belted, there was one minor injury.

Know the Court

I know I gave one player above a thousand career points or more. It had a strange origin. I taught badminton in PE classes. Soon, thinking myself a pretty good player, I encountered one Anand Jaggi, Professor of Economics. Anand was ranked 13th in the world of badminton. And was his “State Champion” in his native India.

Rarely did I get a point. He won the singles, doubles and mixed doubles state badminton championships, held annually at Duke University. And I soon noticed an “uncanny” ability he had. He never played the shuttle-cock when it would land out of bounds. It was “dropped” or let alone.

While my badminton ego suffered, I took this logic to my tennis team. We need to “learn the court”, or like Dr. Jaggi, not hit out of bounds points. We adopted this policy:

      1) In practice, if you have any doubt let it go and lets see if you are right


    2) In a match, with any doubt, go ahead and play it

Soon I could see our players use better and better judgement. We would occasionally let one drop in, but our percentage grew drastically.

The player that benefited most from this was Chai Navawongse, a Thai left-hander who came in on “everything”. Chai had played doubles with Pandorn Schriciphan, so he came in “with game”. Soon, however, I noticed he was playing anything close. There may be 10-20 points a match he played that would have been out. Some, way out.

I explained the “Jaggi” or “learn the court” theory. A bright youngster, and fine player, you could see the light click in his head. Before long he was close to Jaggi in judgement, rarely playing an out ball, simply pointing “out” with the left hand.


In the mid-eighties I began writing a coaching manual. Maybe I’ll add the next twenty years experience to that in a “tennis coaching book” later. If I do, one person will be responsible.   Coach Jim Leighton of Wake Forest University.

North Carolina had, for years, featured the East-West High School All-Star Games. The state added more sports, then girl’s all-stars, and the games progressed. My team had just won a trip to the NAIA Nationals. Hell, we finished fifteenth in the nation.   The first tennis clinic being held in Greensboro was an afterthought.   Coach Norfolk was going to the Basketball Game and I figured I’d pile in with him.   My running buddy, Jack Hussey, was at the clinic, as always, and we were off.   We were all over Guilford County, and Greensboro as well.   Norfolk was in the bed when I sneaked in the shared motel room, very late.   The tennis clinic was the next morning.   I knew Norfolk was awake because he smoked 11 “Viceroys” before taking a morning leak.

I drug my ass out of bed just in time to make the 9:00 clinic at Latham Park in Greensboro.   There were four coaches there including me.    Coach Leighton rolled up with racquets & balls.   He wore traditional white and it matched his hair. He looked just 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 Leighton knew, and 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 everything 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 Dennis 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 in his Buena Vista Road home in Winston-Salem.   We’d talk about the book, and 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 almost 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?” was his answer.   Selling the same lame premise, the clinician was startled when Leighton rose and stated, “Sir, you are addressing the tennis teachers of America 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?”   My immediate response was “Sure!”   Coach said,“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.   People say you don’t have to play to be a coach.   Or that you don’t have to have much other than good players (“You can’t make chicken salad, ‘till you get the chicken.”)   My feeling is I became a much better coach after meeting my mentor.   I know it made me money. I taught everyone in Wilson and the surrounding area for years.   I took Leighton’s advice and sought out private sessions with Dennis Van Der Meer and Welby Van Horn.   They couldn’t have been nicer to me.

Coaching Emotion

There are three main “parts” you have to coach: Physical, Mental and Emotional. The emotional part is the toughest to deal with. However, there are really only two villainous emotions; fear and anger. And they are both self-directed.

Macky Carden, our Elon football coach, told me, “When they get that old sinking feeling, you’ve got to change their minds.”

That “old sinking feeling” exists in a lot of places, one is on the tennis court. “Frozen elbows” cause practice to be worthless. Few people can play when angry at themselves. Maybe McEnroe was “actually nervous” when he created those incidences. Angry, maybe, was better than scared for Mac. Only he knows.

One freshman player’s father accompanied him to my office upon reporting to Elon. He brought a bag that contained thirteen broken racquets. The father wanted to know if I would appeal to Wilson Sporting Goods to replace the “faulty” $100.00 racquets.

The fault wasn’t the racquet, it was the anger with which they were being thrown or banged. I attempted to fix the real flaw, the self-directed anger that ruled the boy’s game.

No one would practice harder. But to no avail. Within moments this young man would go into a tantrum, chastising himself in a hopelessly damaging tirade. He didn’t get angry much with others. It was self-directed and a killer. It took a long time to change this attitude, but without changing, I wouldn’t allow him to represent us. It took a lot of patience for him to learn to quit “beating yourself up.”

Here are several comments about the emotional part of coaching:

  1. Some players don’t have the “nervous system” of a tennis player. Sorry.
  2. The only ones that do you any good as a team player are those who can handle pressure. It’s in college tennis. Either you can handle it or lose. You can learn to deal with it.
  3. Blood flow, more specifically “venous return,” causes “butterflies.” Proper warm up can help get rid of the “jitters”. For many they go away once you exercise.
  4. There is a psychological “proper level of arousal” for athletes. Not too “torqued-up” but you do need your game face. Different strokes for different folks.
  5. Psychologically tough people make the best college tennis players.
  6. What pressure does to the “one piston” player is amazing. I saw a lot of #1 seeds lose in the National tournament due to early round “nerves”.
  7. If you “hang in there” it is truly amazing what can happen. Some call it “momentum” but “pressure” is a more influencing variable. Tennis is truly unique in that “one point can turn the match around.” This is a “core” belief.

Perhaps one of my premier coaching attempts centered around pressure and playing “ahead”. You are either Tied, Ahead or Behind. Behind and tied are motivators enough. Playing while ahead is a critical emotional moment.

I don’t know how many matches I saw unfold like this:

Player A is ahead 5-3 in the third set. His opponent is serving. In the back of Player A’s head drifts this dangerous thought: “Even if I lose this game, I can serve out the match.”

All this results in a lackluster effort at another, and match winning, service break. The opponent breaks for 5-5 and the “momentum” has reversed itself. Now the pressure, and it’s power, has shifted dramatically.

Teaching “killer instinct” is key. Ahead a service break? Get a second.

I think that the most vulnerable points are “ahead points”, 40-15 and 30-0. These are the ones that twenty year olds lose concentration on, thus allowing that “old sinking feeling” to re-enter.

When ahead, keep the pressure off yourself by staying ahead.

Borg taught a magnificent lesson one day on TV. Having just beaten McEnroe in “the greatest match ever,” I watched commentator Bud Collins interview the Wimbledon Champ.

Collins asked Borg, “How did you do it?”

Borg, stoic as ever, said simply, “Legs.” Nothing more.

Collins had several minutes on his hands and rambled on in a commentary I don’t remember.

Then, Borg, having thought some, took the mic from Bud. His comments were:

1. I was very nervous inside…
2. I thought, surely I will lose…
3. I told myself, I must put these thoughts out of my mind.
4. I will not quit under any circumstances!

End of clinic. Pretty good advice for a lot of areas.

Young coaches-Reread ten times.