These Rang True

Here are some quotes on strategy from people I respect. These “rang true” for my many players in many matches.

Find out what your opponent can’t do, or doesn’t like to do, and make them do that.” Jack Kramer 

(Think Nadal over Federer in 2007 French Open. Target? Federer’s backhand.)

Don’t change the “line of the ball” unless you are sure you can make the shot. Otherwise cross-courts “ad nausea.” Two-handed back- hands down the line shots will “slide wide” too often, believe me. T. Parham

When asked what he would do differently, Ken Rosewall replied, “..I would hit a lot more balls cross court.”

Cross-courts get you out of trouble. Jim Verdieck demanded the cross court ball from his team.

Get yourself in a position to “volley away from the source” Verdieck

Any ball hit extremely deep in either corner allows a good attacking possibility Verdieck (“2 and in”)

The simple strategy of tennis singles: “Attack the short ball” Dennis Van Der Mear

Good approach shots make easy volleys J. Leighton

No shots in “no man’s land” is a myth T. Parham

Rule 1 – Find a good doubles partner
Rule 2 – Get along with him/her

Thoughts for Young Coaches

Recently, an Elon graduate, Kyle Smialek, and his family donated tennis scoreboards at the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center on the campus of Elon University. Graciously, they named the scoreboards in honor of my assistant, Bob Owens and me.


Kyle’s mom, Jill Smialek, wrote me with this nice email:

I am hoping you will be be there!!   Kyle is going as well as Kaylyn.

If it wasn’t for you my Children wouldn’t be going and there might not be a scoreboard!!

But, God bless you, you had given him a chance – and to his credit he followed through for four years.   Because of your dedication which you have passed on to my son.   He never gave up.   He was Elon inside and out.

Tom, you have given my son the determination to try his best.   He may never had been given that chance if it weren’t for you.   He may not ever made it “big” in college tennis but his loyalty and his determination is admirable.   And that loyalty drove Kaylyn to try her best at Elon.   And again she struggled with tennis but never gave up!

I attribute that determination to you.   They have both grown through Elon tennis and have now become successful adults.   Two Children that make me very proud of their accomplishments.

So when you are there – look at those scoreboards and know you made a difference on not one but two people’s lives.   You deserve that scoreboard.   Enjoy it!!

Hope you get to catch Kyle and Kaylyn while there.

My very best to Margaret



I responded with the following email and the thought, “One parent is worth more than 100 teachers…”

Jill–what a kind note and thanks.   Here is an alternate explanation for the kid’s successes..In James Michener’s MEXICO, Michener uses bull fighting as a metaphor for death…he asked the reader “…what is the worst thing that can happen from a promoter’s point of view?”   Answer:  The bull must have courage or he won’t fight!   Picture “Ferninand the Bull”.   Next question—what is the surest way to determine if a bull has the necessary courage? Practice fight?   Can’t do that, because one practice and the bull figures the deal about the cape out.   Kills the matador.   Promoter’s best guess at determining the potential courage of a young bull?  Fight the mothers…if the mother has heart, the offspring will have courage.  You did good with the kids, Mom.  Jill,   I loved Kyle as a person and you all as a family.    I’m glad, but not surprised about their success.  Margaret and I are quite thrilled about the scoreboards and look forward to seeing them in action.   (Hopefully with some Phoenix wins on the boards).    I must tell you and your family that as much as we appreciate our names up there with Elon, our most intense thanks are for the remembrance of our beloved friend, Bob Owens.  I truly believe Bob is an angel.  Can’t wait till next weekend.

Stay in touch, and thanks once again.

Tom and Margaret Parham

The Smialeks think I did Kyle a favor by keeping him on the team.   It was a “no-brainer.” First of all, he was a good player.   More importantly, he was a heckuva fine student and person.

But I started to think about unsung contributors who often don’t get to play much.   Football coach Henry Trevathan is a dear friend and legendary coach.   I once asked Coach Trevathan what he liked most about coaching.   As was his way, he pondered the question a while and finally said: “There was almost always a kid trying out for the football team who had no business trying out; too small, lack of talent, slow—whatever.   But he had one quality.   He wouldn’t quit.  I somehow could keep him around and turn it into a positive for him, the team and myself.   Took some time, some patience, some faith.”

I had several of those kids who’d played for me, Kyle was one, his friend George Memory was another.    George’s family, the Don Memorys, are part of the “Memorys of Wake Forest College”.   Bull and Jasper Memory are iconic at “Old Wake Forest.”   They were also tennis players who took my father, E.T. Parham, under their wing when he was an aspiring young theology student and ministerial hopeful.  They taught him tennis and he played #4 for Wake Forest in 1928. I met Don Memory socially when George was a senior in high school.  We uncovered our connection and I learned that George was interested in Elon.   We got him to Elon and he was a “marginal” player who I kept on the squad.  The summer of George’s second year I checked my returning player data with Elon and George was not enrolled.   I called his Dad and I don’t believe Don would object to me saying there were “tears in his voice” when he told me that George “had worsened” (he suffered from severe kidney problems) and would not be able to play anymore.   And he was not going back to Elon.   I encouraged both to have him come back.    I would keep him as manager and “in” tennis—a game he loved.

Fast forward two years, George’s health had thankfully improved and he was able to return to the team.   We were playing Davidson;   they were good and it had taken all of efforts to win.   George and Kyle Smialek were up to play doubles together in a “scratch match”.   We may have already won but you’d never know watching Kyle and George.   I don’t remember much else about that day, just that our team won, it was beautiful out and that watching Kyle and George play together made a lot of sense.   It was a tremendous jolt of joy, for me as well as the team.

I did my share of winning.   It is worthwhile to do your best.    I remember a lot of these “Smialek” moments and what great kids some of these non-starter, marginal players were.   Many of my era’s kids would have played on a lot of fine college teams but were bumped by the influx of foreign and international players.   My first team had great guys who would not have played later.   However, given the chance and some time, they blossomed with experience.   Joe Roediger was #13 on my first Elon team.   He worked his way up to #5, graduated when no one thought he could and has taught tennis for twenty years.   No one loves teaching tennis more than Joe.   Many of these marginal players ended up as teachers and coaches.   The ones who are cut,  end up bitter at tennis and probably quit playing, let alone teach it.  The marginals though, will possibly be your next great tennis teacher, pro or coach.

One of the few things that I did not like about Title IX was that it dictated squad size for men be equal to women, or vice versa.   You had to cut at a certain equal number.   Until then, I could let them hang around as long as they would. Coach Jim Verdieck of Redlands University and our NAIA days, kept 32 on his squad.   He gave the top 16 a private hour lesson weekly, the bottom 16 a half hour.   Many of these “subs” are teaching today.   Plus, Verdieck won more national tennis titles than anyone, ever, in college tennis.

I did, of course, kick a few off.   None who didn’t deserve it.   And I kept a few I should have run off.   Maybe I was idealistic but I thought they could all be salvaged.   Very often, a challenge match cost a kid a starting slot, or a chance to stay on the team.  One kid lost a challenge match on the match point of a third set tiebreaker—on a double fault.   That hurts.   But he didn’t quit and eventually became a fine starter.   Almost every kid I kept, sooner or later, came back and got me a crucial win.   Peter Van Graafeiland lost and lost and lost.  He was as nice a kid as ever played.   He figured it out and became solid at the bottom of the lineup.   Jon Hodges, Ashley Shaw, Justin Clark and Micheal Prelec were Americans who sat out until their time came.   John Morel grew 4” in his freshman year and was ineligible.   He later became all conference.

So many more examples, Chad York teaches at one of the better tennis clubs in Charlotte. He took lump after lump and it killed me to watch him come up short.   Chad never blinked, to this day.   Tommy Stratford teaches tennis in D.C.   He would bleed to play and always, always supported the team.   Tommy Nielsen was the same.   A guy named John Potanko was recruited out of PE classes.   Andrew Hodges teaches today. I   watched him play freelance everyday while we practiced.   I convinced him to come over to the varsity courts, hit with some of the better players.   He didn’t think he was good enough.   Great kid.   Kevin McCabe was another.   Sebbe Bredberg, a Swede, fought shoulder problems and substituting for a school year.   Next go—Southern Conference Champion, Bredberg a hero!   There were similar kids at Atlantic Christian and really I’m sure I’ve forgotten several.

I wrote this thinking of, and thanking, the Smialeks.   More than that, thanking my persistent kids.   I loved seeing them make it.   More than either, though, I write this for the young coaches… “Don’t cut ‘em, Don’t give up on ‘em, Coach ‘em, Coach ‘em, Coach ‘em!”



I have a golf acquaintance that is almost 90 years old. Still plays from the regulation tees and shoots well below his age. He is 6’3″, weighs about 240lbs and looks like he could play tight end in college right now. I asked him what sports he played in high school? I didn’t PLAY anything. I had to work. Tobacco was the worst. (fault line 1).
At 76 (born 1940) my generation was allowed to play. I could be in school, church, working, or on the team. My guess is post WWII boys had fathers who were more willing and able to loosen strings on the family workforce.
The next sports fault line, I think, was that parent who clawed his way to the top through hard work and wanted to give their kids “opportunities I didn’t have!” Admirable but sometimes flawed thinking. Some of these went overboard, giving the kid unlimited time and money for play. Often the youngster began to believe school, work, discipline, were for others. These “pros to come” wound up wondering what happened when the inevitable (for most) work, was unavoidable. “There are two kinds of golf(or tennis) pros: The workers and the players, and all the players are looking for a job!”
One college president said, “…the worst thing for a golfer is to be able to shoot par!” Planning to play for a living is indeed a bad bet.
I don’t want to discourage youngsters from trying their best at sports. Handled right there are great hard work and life lessons in sports. What I am seeing too much of is a more frightening fault line.
A recent beach visit by his grandchildren had an “old coach” friend excited. “I may want you to help with these two on their tennis.” Ready to help, I waited to no avail. I asked Grandpa what happened? “I asked the two of them to go hit four days in a row. Each time they barely looked up from their video games, thumbs twitching, to mumble “Maybe tomorrow, Pop.”
Double fault.


My friend, lane Evans, a USTA professional,and I had a long discussion about tennis in the USA. Maybe this will summarize some suggestions, observations, and interrelationships that are linked. And maybe helpful.
My personal efforts are being directed toward helping high school varsity tennis coaches, players and teams. We just lost a North Carolina ” tennis angel”, Mr. Jim Toney.   Jim spearheaded a successful effort in our County (Alamance) in North Carolina, to build or refurbish all high school facilities. Quite a task, quite impressive success. We then pledged each other to help the coaches. Very often these people were in need of help.
I hope my book, “The Little Green Book of Tennis”, will aid the 700 coaches in North Carolina we are providing the book to.
Consider these:
1. Teaching Pros can be helpful to these high school coaches, players and teams. Very often the pros are much more knowledgeable and specialized in tennis.
High schoolers and younger are a great source for the pro’s business. A nurturing of this relationship is mutually beneficial.
2. High school sports are more and more selective. Basketball and football are sports not all are fitted for.  Youngsters  will look more and more for alternatives.
Some will be stellar athletes who might consider tennis.
3. Many won’t.
4. Why? Since the early 70’s more and more tennis scholarships have gone to internationals. We are in the third generation of this reality. The skyrocketing of college costs has paralleled the number of internationals.   And the number of grants for Americans have declined in a similar staggering proportion. Families invest tremendous amounts of money into their children’s tennis. It can be rewarded only two ways: 1.The extremely rare route of becoming a professional player and 2. College scholarships. And the scholarships grow more and more important annually.
5. One significant reason people are opting for sports other than tennis is that this third generation of parents and players have seen the scholarships  shipped  overseas.
6. This also manifests itself in the dearth of top pro players in America today. The obvious graph-like decline in quality of players in America coupled with the elimination of Americans selected for college scholarships should be grounds for new ideas.
7. Here is one. Is it not time to seriously study how to restore these opportunities and scholarships to our own?
8. Wouldn’t this benefit the hopeful high school or junior player in terms of motivation.

9.  Much has been written about internationals in American college.  My more detailed thoughts can be found in the articles listed in  XENOPHOBIC (146) from my blog,

10. One last suggestion to high school coaches and tennis pros:  Coach–talented players are protective of their games and practices.  Work with the players and pros to allow meaningful practices, and still maintain team sacrifices.  Meet and set up a plan; the kid misses high school practice for pro lessons or a match with a high level opponent and yet gives back to  the team by helping less talented teammates.   Both interact in the long run.    PROS- encourage  why team play may teach more than individual success.  I wondered if  a “prima donna “wouldn’t play for his/her  high school , would they sacrifice as needed to be a good college teammate?



Perhaps the most significant tennis change in recent history is the development of the two handed backhand.   Even young players can tattoo an offensive topspin groundstroke.   No reasonable coach disputes that.

Jim Verdieck was a great coach whose business card stated “I didn’t change anything, I gave you a new one.” The addition he referred to is a one handed underspin slice or chip.

Young players have trouble developing this shot, as a strange new grip is required, and new forearm muscles must be developed and trained. The many functions this new grip enhances is worth the work required (defensive backhands, lobs, all volleys except high forehands, the service, etc.).   Recently I experimented with a simple home made teaching aid: A balloon tied with a light string (2 to 3 feet long) to a badminton racket’s center string or “sweet spot”/  Note that the very light racket and balloon allow a classic one handed backhand volley, aided by a backhand grip.

Having recently worked with high school players, too few know the value of this tool.   Young girls and little boys struggle and it takes time. However few quality players are without this ability.

This drill allows almost immediate success with proper technique, using the new forearm muscles needed. The youngster will tell you quickly: “… I can feel that pulling my arm muscles!” Don’t allow them to overdo this and cause tennis elbow.



Not long ago I received a call from a man named John Ormsby from Southern Pines , NC, once a hotbed of Six Man Football. I had played this game designed for small schools and told him what I knew. His book entitled THE HISTORY OF NORTH CAROLINA 6-MAN FOOTBALL is quite detailed. Completing our interview I asked John if he had played the game. No. Why then did he do this detailed work on a seemingly obscure topic? He replied, “… I wanted to be more knowledgeable than anyone on one subject.
One tennis player comes to mind when I ask “who was the most unique player I saw play”: Charlie Owens. The South , and North Carolina specifically, had some great “post-boom” open tennis greats. And great players to copy. Allen Morris had a backhand we marveled at. Tim Wilkison was a boy genius no one could out work. John Sadri’s serve stunned everyone, including McEnroe. But, Charlie.
Allen Morris recently told me “…Charlie beat me one time in a close match, but playing him was so much fun, I really did mind losing. Much. “
Maybe fun is the operative word for Charlie. Personally I never saw anyone close who could play as well while entertaining every one. It wasn’t clowning. Charlie was a world class player that simply had a bag of tricks. Mostly defensive tools, such as a deathly placed lob. Chips and angles, changes of pace and strategy. “WHERE DID THAT COME FROM”?
Satchel Paige said he called his money pitch his “BE BALL”, because it “always be where I want it to be.” Charlie’s ace was that drop shot.
Now a fine teaching pro at Landfall Country Club in close by Wilmington, NC, Charlie granted me some old coach conversation time. Below I have copied writings I have done related to the modern day need to add this tool to American games. The first is from about 2010 until this article. Please excuse the repetition, but I became more convinced of the need to cope with this tactic in American tennis.
The more I wrote the more I thought, I wonder what Charlie would say about this?
Here are some thoughts the “master” shared:
1. The most adamant statement contradicted that this was pure talent. That those great hands were simply heaven sent. No way. He cited several older men from his local club who spent the time beating him with lobs, drop shot, and guile. As a small youngster, one older “wizard “beat me 100 times before I beat him at his own game. He never beat me again”. No, those “tools” were hard earned, no short cuts, but a lifetime of fun and victory.
2. He agreed with the special qualities of this game. It tires opponents at a whole new level. It frustrates and angers even high quality players. It is an option and is capable of making an opponent play in an new and unpracticed game
3. Mini-tennis is the best way to practice the skills needed. Plus play practice.
4. He shared names to remain unspoken who, some world class players, could not adjust to this game.
5. He agreed there are four corners on each side of the court.
6. He agreed women are included in the use and defense of this tactic.
7. “There is no graceful way to run up and dig it out. That’s hard.”
8. “Every one needs plan B”.
9. Families have to support the hard work and discipline required of the student by the pro.
10. It has to be hit “up some’



2. In pro tennis both men and women have learned the virtues of the drop-shot. One–it tires opponents quickly.
Secondly, it has a subtle psychological effect that discourages opponents. Years back I suggested Djokavic and Murray
were the most diligent in pursuing it’s perfection. Didn’t the 2016 French Open prove that. American juniors: Take
heed. Develop your drop-shot. And your DEFENSE AGAINST THE DROP SHOT. That starts with conditioning and footwork/posture.
The theme of blog #10 predicts the increased use of the drop shot at the high levels of the game. The French Open 2015 doubles down on this idea.
The Men’s singles finals yesterday was Andy vs the Joker. Since 2010 my strong feeling has been that these two had realized the value of the offensive and defensive demands of great drop shots, and worked the hardest at developing the necessary skills.
Yesterday’s rain delay and other duties caused me to abandon my drop shot chart. Over the first several games Novak won 5 of 6 drop shot attempts. He had a wide open down the line pass on the one point he lost. Andy tried two and won both points when I had to miss a lot of the match.
I would love to know the feeling of these two champions as to 1. doesn’t an effective drop-shot have a particularly tiring or fatigue potential 2. as well as a psychological damage that is a corollary weapon.
I don’t think this is going to “back off” any. And I would remind all players that you have to develop defensive quickness, and movement patterns and postures that offset this demon.
“This also makes me wonder about the upward evolution of the game, and who will achieve the next level. Djokovic has almost perfected “corner to corner” baseline strategy. One thing that does seem to be growing in effectiveness is the drop shot. The old adage that “you can’t drop shot on a hard court” is being tested more at the top level.
There are four corners on each side of the court. Two are up at the net. The only player I have seen who could hit a un-returnable drop-shot from the base line was Charlie Owens. Many watched Charlie dismantle quality players with a disguised, feather like drop shot that confounded even great players. Maybe there is someone coming along with this unique touch, who combined with the other tennis skills needed will produce the next level in the never ending evolution of tennis.
Women players might be well advised to note this possibility. And to be aware that not only should she be able to hit drop shots, she must be able to defend against them. My guess is that many players and teachers have realized there are four corners on each side of a tennis court.”
I just watched the Wimbledon men’s single semi-finals. If you go to these three strategy articles in review, I think you will find I was pretty close: (1) Basic Tennis Strategy (2) The Circle Stinger and (3) Rafa vs. The Joker.
In the latter, I predicted this season would feature a lot more drop shots (Andy Murray vs. Baghdadis for example). To follow up, or evolve, as a teacher/coach, it then seems we must learn defense against the drop shot. In addition to the basic strokes of tennis there are auxiliary shots (returns, approaches, passing shots, etc. ) with different techniques to be mastered. Drop shots are one of these now more than ever. There are also an unlimited “awkward” shots in tennis (for example a backhand overhead, or running down a “shanked shot”).
These shots, including defending against drop-shots, must be identified, the proper techniques practiced, and implementation mastered. Please remember, players and parents, that this isn’t easy work. Don’t abandon the insightful pro who pushes this mastery, for a guy who simply moves you left and right.
****But the number one rule (I suspect for many women) is…I won’t make you hit awkward balls (up and back movement) if you won’t make me. Deal, left and right only. This one puzzled me. And I tried to develop “Plan B.” Simply stated, “Plan A,” or rallying corner to corner, is okay as long as you can win this way. Once you realize she’s better at this, then we’d better modify.

Jim Verdieck

Not every athletic contest is the Super Bowl or the Final Four. Great games occur everywhere. There were some great contests, team efforts and fine people in NAIA tennis. I’m grateful I saw twenty-eight tournaments. Dick Gould of Stanford was the “Coach of the Era” (25 years) in the period of time I coached. No doubt he was the best.

But, our absolute best was Jim Verdieck, a competitor, the coach at Redlands University (California). Jim was the best at winning I ran into, in any sport. And he was already a legend when my team made its 1970 trek to Rockhill Tennis Club in Kansas City, home of the NAIA Championships. Verdieck was a strong willed football – tennis coach. His teams won 12 of 13 NAIA titles, starting about the mid-sixties.

I’d admired him and then befriended him. I need to write some of what I saw, one could learn a lot from Redlands and their coach. I asked him one time why he didn’t write about his vast knowledge. Our kids were about to face each other. He pointed to the court and said, “See that match. If you told me we could win that match if I’d write 200 pages, I start right now.”

I asked where, over his coaching years, the non-scholarship Redlands team would rank in California, including the Division I giants of USC, UCLA, Stanford, Pepperdine and all the rest. “Sixth.”
The teams wore national championship warm-ups. Only for Kansas City.
No one got to the courts before Redlands. We mimicked that too.

“But what if it dies,” I asked about his knowledge.
“If I die, it dies.”
He proved true to his word. Suffering a major heart attack, he was told he needed an emergency treatment.
“Not before Kansas City.”
Told he may die if he went, he boarded the plane.

He knew his business. Janice Metcalf, a fine California player, played #6 on one Redlands men’s team. It was early 1970 and there were no girl’s teams in the NAIA. I was on the rules committee that denied Coach Verdieck’s appeal for a substitute for Janice, who’d injured her knee after the substitution deadline. The rule was clear and Coach Verdieck accepted the decision.

He flew Janice out for her first round match, which she won easily, and then boarded a return plane to Redlands. Redlands University won the national title by that one point. When I asked Verdieck about that move he explained. “I’d figured the draw pretty close. I knew Janice could probably beat this kid easily, and told her to walk off if it was bad at all.”

Perhaps as impressive as Jim were his sons, Doug and Randy. Doug won NAIA singles all four years. He won the doubles, I think three times, twice with Randy. When Coach Verdieck was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame, Doug flew from Hawaii to introduce him. As Doug tried to speak, tears, not words, came. He backed out and tried again with the same results. Another attempt. The NAIA official next to him stood as if to relieve him. “No, dammit, no. I flew all the way from Hawaii to do this and I’m gonna do it.” Angry now – his level voice stated: “My dad is the greatest,” and sat down.

Coach Verdieck told me that three times he had lights approved for the university courts. Somehow the school procrastinated every time they said yes. Later he found out that when he’d tell his wife the lights were to be installed, she nixed the deal. She simply went to the administrators saying, “If you put lights up, he’ll stay there all night, and I’ll leave him.”

His roster included twenty-four players – a very large team. Not only that, each week every player in the top eight had a one hour private lesson with Verdieck. Sixteen remaining players got a half hour per week with him. This, in addition to team responsibilities.

Upon learning he’d retired at age 65, I called to congratulate him. He was within sixty or so wins of 1,000 wins. No one else is close.

“Did you consider staying until you break that barrier?” was one of my questions.
“No, I promised my wife if I got to 65, I’d stop. A deal’s a deal.”

Though he quit coaching he couldn’t give up teaching. I asked Coach Verdieck early on if he knew Dennis Van Der Meer. Not only is Van Der Meer the world’s most prolific tennis teacher, he was very close to my mentor, Jim Leighton. Verdieck said, “Know Dennis? I taught him 90% of what he knows!” When I asked Coach Leighton if he knew Coach Verdieck, he said no. I told him of the Verdieck comment about Dennis Van Der Meer. Leighton was appalled, and said he intended to ask Dennis about that! A couple of years went by and I asked Leighton if he’d asked about Verdieck. Leighton admitted that Dennis had responded, “Yes, that’s probably about right.”

In retirement, Verdieck worked with Dennis at Sweetbriar College, in the mountains of Virginia. I called Coach Verdieck and asked if I could hire him. “What for?” he asked. I told him I wanted to know more about coaching and that he was the one who I most respected. I’d been coaching 25 years at this point. Still not convinced, he argued that his knees had gotten so bad he couldn’t move enough to hit many balls. I replied, “Coach, I just want to talk with you.” He contended he didn’t talk much, but to come on and we’d probably be done in thirty minutes. My wife went with me and waited patiently for three and a half hours. “Tom, we have to set the babysitter free at 8:00 pm.”

You’re never to old to learn, and I learned a lot that day. When I became Director of Athletics the first thing I did was book an hour with five different athletic directors I admired. Dylan said you had to get up close to the teacher if you want to learn anything.


Below is an excerpt from Blog 172 (MAESTRO).  The French Open always highlights (1) lack of American men who can play on clay and (2) Dropshots.   No exceptions in 2019.  Read all of blog 172.   Bring back Charlie Owens.

“This also makes me wonder about the upward evolution of the game, and who will achieve the next level. Djokovic has almost perfected “corner to corner” baseline strategy. One thing that does seem to be growing in effectiveness is the drop shot. The old adage that “you can’t drop shot on a hard court” is being tested more at the top level.
There are four corners on each side of the court. Two are up at the net. The only player I have seen who could hit a un-returnable drop-shot from the base line was Charlie Owens. Many watched Charlie dismantle quality players with a disguised, feather like drop shot that confounded even great players. Maybe there is someone coming along with this unique touch, who combined with the other tennis skills needed will produce the next level in the never ending evolution of tennis.
Women players might be well advised to note this possibility. And to be aware that not only should she be able to hit drop shots, she must be able to defend against them. My guess is that many players and teachers have realized there are four corners on each side of a tennis court.”  (2016)

Volley Reminders

Here are some volley “reminders” (also check girls section)

  • You need a “bump volley”
  • “Touch and tighten” (“touch the volley as you simply tighten your hands.”)
  • “Volley away from the source”
  • There are seven volleys. “Keep in a volley spot”
  • “Churn and burn”
  • “Recoil”
  • “Use your legs to volley”
  • Hit a forehand overhead if at all possible
  • Low volleys go straight and deep and your opponent gets to hit it again.
  • High volley should be for winners. Often hit “down” and “away”from the source.
  • Use your legs and movement to “keep it in a volley – spot”
  • Overheads
    1. Get your racket ready
    2. Get to the ball in perfect service “hit-spot”
    3. Watch the ball longer than you think is necessary
    4. Use the “hit-turn” method if possible. Don’t jump or “scissor kick”unless you have to. Keep your feet on the court.

Coaching Girls and Women

After open heart surgery, two back surgeries and a hip replacement, I was beginning to get straightened out (2001).

My good friend and Athletic Director, Alan White, called me into his office, “Tom, you’re looking much better, and by the way you’re adding the Women’s team to your job next fall.”

Good friend, did I say? Actually I’ve taught women or girls all my career. The tennis boom (late ‘60s) hit when I first started teaching and in Wilson, NC alone I taught three generations of girls, women, mammas and grandmas. But…I’d never coached the college women’s team. Thirty-seven years of men’s tennis, now they let me coach the girls. What bothered me wasn’t all I’d observed about the women. (There are some “horror” stories out there). It was coaching two teams at once. I later said you had to have a M.W.A. degree to do it (Management While Wandering Around).

And there were other issues, mainly Title IX funding for two quality coaches was tough for smaller schools. Our men’s team had done well, and our women had good suc- cess too. The problem was turnover among women coaches, due mainly to “part time salaries” for the Women’s coach. This was Dr. White’s dilemma and one for many tennis programs. Many athletic directors took the tactic Dr. White was proposing: Hire one full time person for both jobs and give the Head Coach a part time assistant. Men and women thus have equal coaching.

After the initial shock I made two decisions.

  1. If Alan White asked me to do this I couldn’t turn him down. He’d done too much for me. Plus, I understood his situation.
  2. If I were to do this I’d do it to the best of my ability.

Never have I gotten more advice: “Run for the hills,” “You’ll be sorry,” “Can’t be done,” “You’re too old for this,” “They are different.” “They” are different. And I had a lot to learn. And I didn’t learn it all, and don’t know it all. But here are some things I did know and some I did learn.
Continue reading “Coaching Girls and Women”