A. Modern vs. Classic Teachers

Changing to a proper service grip is an example of where this technique may be used;   or playing with a continental grip for all volleys;  or moving the ball toss to the right move for the service;  or any number of other changes that are sound and needed.   If this all sounds like it is moving toward the Classic vs. Modern coaching argument, it is.   And no tennis debate is more heated than debate over the current widespread use of Western forehand and two-handed backhands. Coach Leighton invited me for breakfast with Chet Murphy at a USTA Teachers Conference.   After listening to these two great teachers, I was particularly struck with one statement:  Mr. Leighton asked Mr. Murphy what his assessment of the classic method of tennis instruction that their careers had sanctioned.   Mr. Murphy pondered, then responded, “I think we did a good job, though we probably should have been more tolerant of Western forehands.”

It is tough to be a “purist” today.   There are so many varied and successful styles.   I don’t think there’s a stroke Greg Holmes (1983 NCAA Singles champ) didn’t use.   Borg, Evert, Connors, etc. all use some shots that vary from the classic or Ken Rosewall style of play that so many used as “copy” for years.   Many of the variations offer improvement, and certainly there is a “classic” way to hit any shot, new or old.   One problem some teachers have is that many played before these new “inventions” and we have to “retool” our knowledge.   Coaches to follow will have the same task.

Welby Van Horn took time to talk tennis with me at the summer resort in Pinehurst (North Carolina).   One of his concerns is the lack of proper “copy” for young players.   Who to imitate becomes a modern problem that perhaps players from an earlier era did not have.   There has always been copying or imagery, but never has there been such a wide panorama to choose from.

B. HELPING HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS COACHES

NC TENNIS—HELP FOR HIGH SCHOOLS COACHES

I attended the NC High School’ s tennis coaches clinic in Greensboro last week. This is held and hosted on the UNC-Greensboro campus with Coach Jeff Trivette as chairman. This is the first time in a while I had attended and was impressed as Coach Michael Leonard of Elon University put on a superb doubles clinic for some 150 high school coaches from our state. I attended the first tennis clinic the North Carolina High School Athletic Association held. Wake Forest coach, Jim Leighton was the clinician and there were four coaches at the Latham Park courts. That clinic was the beginning of a different level of desire to be a good coach, for me personally. In 1985 I put on that clinic.

I watched the progress that has been made in high school tennis in our state. The Burlington Tennis Center was and is the site of many state championship tournaments so it was easy to watch many of these.

As I watched the clinic this year I told some one “…there is a lot more CARE in that group than knowledge. Granted several of the coaches demonstrated good skill on the court. I have said all along that a high school coach who cares and drives the van properly is all parents can hope for. Now I think it time to help them. They , by virtue of their attendance and willingness to coach our children, have earned our assistance.

HOW?

Much is already being done. The NCTA , The USTA, The NCHSAA, The North Carolina High School’s Coaches Association are going hard to help. Where help is needed comes from several sources:

**** Pay for these jobs is meager compared to what is asked and expected.
****The pay will not attract top notch tennis coaches in most instances. Most of the very good ones are volunteers, or close.
*** The typical “assigned” staffer is often a football coach, one who knows nothing about tennis. Or some similar scenario.
****More and more are “adjunct”, or part time coaches, who don’t have even the academic background that teacher/coaches have.

WHAT CAN HELP?
One way to start is a “THINK TANK” or committee to examine what is possible. We have a tremendous group of fine players throughout the state. We have in place an organization of teaching professionals in NC. Many times the best source is a “tennis angel” who silently plays with youngsters. No one gives more than parents. The club pro benefits from high school families.

There is another largely untapped source in our state. The NC TENNIS HALL OF FAME members. There seems to me to be a group of old pros and young turks in our select group who could also help the coaches in their area. Many of the hall of famers and pros are the same people. Many already give or have given to tennis in many ways. There are so many ways these people could enhance the knowledge, confidence, and performance of particularly the beginning coaches. I can’t list them all. Believe me, you can help.

I would also suggest to these coaches to look for the local angels. My experience is these are great people who only need to be asked. It may be one afternoon a week, It may be a helpful phone call. Showing a drill, filling in for an emergency, play an exhibition, take them to a college match, gift of equipment—old or new, simply attend matches, etc.

I think a good place to start “thinking” would be the coaches, the Pros, the angels ,and the organizations to brain storm the how. The why is obvious. And I think there is ample evidence that this help is available. And I am convinced the link between high school and juniors and parents and these volunteers can thrive.
The first place to start is knowledge plus need. Our hall of famers and our professional tennis teachers are where to start.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS? WILLING TO HELP?

TOO SAD ( )

From 2012 at $1.1 trillion down to $680 billion in 2013, the “smallest number since 2008.” The deficit falling more sharply “…than any year since World War II ended.”
Still I wonder what could have been accomplished if the administration had not had to deal with “… harsh partisanship and a GOP leadership interested primarily in improving the fortunes of the wealthy…”
So, will W and his bunch, mean I have to die five years earlier? Someone said there was 60 billion dollars worth of government fraud during the Iraq/ Afghanistan wars. Someone estimated the total bill for these wars combined would eventually be $4-$6 trillion. Think about that. They can’t get within two trillion dollars for an accurate estimate!
And yet all of this pales compared to a statement released by the Department of Veteran Affairs this month. This government-sponsored department announced that we are experiencing 22 suicide’s daily veterans of these two wars. This totally shocked ancient me. That is almost one veteran per hour. Similarly, they reported an estimated 1800 total of similar suicides in the first quarter of 2014.
To me, this is among the most startling, sad, and truly disgusting among facts that have accrued from a decision that was so flawed and ill advised. Not one dime for our veterans wounded physically or psychologically should be begrudged, and yet the cost of all of this damage, personal and financial, has to be borne by our country. This mistake was colossal. It was wrong. And the message is clear: The decision to go to war must be made with the utmost caution from our leaders.

D. 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

E. Thoughts for Young Coaches (50)

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.

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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

Cheers,

Jill

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!”

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F. FAULT LINES (168)

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.

G. FOR JIM TONEY (147)

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, http://www.tomparham.wordpress.com.

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?