We arrived at Prince Edward Island at dark, and it was our first real attempt at camping and “tenting”.
“All tent” Parham couldn’t figure Rand’s tent out, particularly in the twilight.
Finally Tee, at age 11, figured it out only to be told we’d erected it in the middle of the access road. Oops! We moved over near a group of French Canadian campers, settling in for the night.
Americans know little about Canada (“I don’t even know what street Canada’s on” – Al Capone). Most think it’s Eskimos, polar bears, and moose and Mounties and that they all speak French.
Margaret was bluffing when she pretended to understand our early morning visitor. We’d just fired up the “Coleman cooker” and were starting to assemble breakfast foods. Margaret whispered, “Someone stole his cooler, and I think he wants milk.” As she opened the cooler and offered the contents, he simply took the whole cooler and it’s innards.
Margaret, being Margaret, didn’t have the heart to chase him. We cut off the Coleman stove, and drank our coffee as the four of us headed to the Charlottesville, P.E.I. McDonalds.
So much for our maiden camping voyage.


Dr. White was a champion of the “total athletic program.” My first year he asked me if I thought we ought to add women’s soccer. “Tomorrow” was my answer.
I’ll never forget those early women’s soccer teams, remarkably successful, kick- ing though what was always a rain drenched play off win. My favorite was Katie McGrath, who also played basketball and volleyball.
I taught Katie and got to know her. She returned from the holidays one Christmas telling me her father had bought a motel.
“So your family is going into the motel business,” I commented.
Katie, one of their thirteen children, said “Oh, no sir, Coach. Dad bought it for us. I’m in #9.”



1. While this is a special time for you, your time is limited.

2. Rehearse your speech and try to finish  under your allotted time.   Brevity is the soul of wit.

3.  Respect your audience.

4.  If you speak for too long, you infringe upon the other speaker’s time, and create the potential for audience discomfort.

5.  Many speakers “get in and can’t get out” — it’s okay to just stop telling a story and move on.   Practice it.

6.  Some speakers are surprised by their emotions.    Talking about parents, family, team mates, coaches and schools can trigger deep and powerful and surprising emotions.

7.  The monitor runs the show.   It’s essential that the moderator make the ground rules for speakers clear in the rehearsal.   If you should exceed your time limit, the monitor  GET DOWN COACH will rise.   This is the signal to wrap it up quickly.



Our friend, Norma Rose White , is a retired high school teacher. Finding it painful to report negative grades for her students, yet required period comments, Mrs. White chose “not yet” as a grade for “those others”. Our family found this evaluation a reasonable response for many a category, and we often responded, “not yet, Norma Rose!” when expectations weren’t quite met.

September 2018—till September 2019 was quite a year at Emerald isle. One neighbor just finished his house repairs last Tuesday. Hurricane Florence was a killer damage- wise to our community. Then Dorian caused forced evacuation from our newly repaired cites. Margaret and I left Thursday at 8am. At 9:1O not hurricane Dorian, but another assailant, tornado unnamed, roared down that path.

This one was vicious and found its frequent target (s)—back to back recreation vehicle parks.

Years ago when his small grandchildren visited, “Country”Boykin referred to them as “the thundering herd”. Three weeks before this hurricane our herd decsinded en mass on us.   We actually devised a common tact for older grandparents: we rented them a house.

Two nights their air conditioner shut down. So “several” sought relief at Pops. Logistically we had six adults, one semi teenager, and two four year olds. Nine people, two houses. One son of mine is mathematically off the chart but one could figure the variations of people we could combine. Yet, within minutes we all knew that all seven combined could not harness the two fours, when together.   Only the beach itself could tame them together.

Growing up in small North Carolina towns it was obvious that families did the same for their family vacations. “What are you all going to do on vacation?” Going to Myrtle Beach. Whole family, grandma, and dog, Emma.”

Most of the time there were lots of kids. No telling how many four year olds were babysat by the great Atlantic mother.

Grand parents giggle at the tail light joke. Our community elders host a “they are gone” party in the early fall. I missed that three weeks ago exit bliss moment.

Symptoms required a cardiac check, or three.   My history causes a lot of looking over my shoulder. Been lucky for twenty years after being lucky after quintuple bypass.   Need to go in there again, Coach. Odds got me.

God bless modern medicine and Dr. Williams. Ps. My first savior was another, Dr. Williams, my lifelong friend, Dr. Willis Williams.

Only a stint was required. And while it was the major one (right coronary) it feels like I have a new carburetor.

There is a reason or two for writing this. The three weeks back to back left a lot of reasons for concerns. Week one –many know lennox Parham (think thundering herd).   Somehow my hospital stay may have sounded serious to many close friends. Pile on a hurricane following a major hurricane that was reported to be headed right at 202 Blue Crab, only to be upstaged by a bombshell tornado, this too picking one of our nearby neighbors.

The streets are dry, the wind “lay down”as said locally.

Not yet Norma Rose.



Someone once said of pro basketball, “…give them both 100 points and just play two minutes”!  Granted they play a season that is too demanding to play wide open for  90 games.  Many times I hear people say they won’t watch pro basketball. Still, if you haven’t watched the NBA playoffs, you have missed the greatest athletes since Samson.  The Final Four in college basketball is evidence of attrition in intense playoffs.  Duke and Zion and Shoegate caused pre- tournament pause.    Then Auburn and Texas Tech lose their top players.  Then Baylor’s MVP in the women’s final.
All knees,  and  tv showed they weren’t fake injuries.  Ouch!
Rules are changing to protect players.  Should we pay them? Insure them?  Deferred payment?  Lawsuits for head injuries?
In the early 70’s I asked an opposing basketball coach about the kind of kid one of his players was.  His response:  “Wasn’t nothing to him till I whipped him with a jump rope   I kept in my office!”  I was stunned and said “Coach, you didn’t really do that?” Meaning I didn’t think he would do it.  He took it all together differently.   He thought I meant he  wasn’t capable of doing that.  Thus he said  ” I stood in the doorway.  He couldn’t get out.  I did   (another of his star players) the same way!”
Lots of changes since those days when “mean man coaches” were the norm.  Almost had to be one to get a job.
Forty years ago my team won the NAIA men’s tennis title.  One of my players had congenital emphysema, yet won three,  three set matches in one day.  All coaches can remember those instances.  Athletics provides those moments and opportunities.  And we don’t want to lose that.   If there  is middle ground now is the time to find it.  But if players (and parents)  think the goals they dream of come easy,  those goals  will go un-scored.
-Excerpt From: Tom Parham. “The Little Green Book of Tennis.” Apple Books.
Secondly, I see the young coaches work the kids too much. Your players are not employees, or machines, and you can run them in the ground. Perhaps the biggest criticism I heard of my teams was that we didn’t work hard enough. But, at tournament time we were fresh, eager and goal oriented. Very often we waxed the “hard workers” whose coach had worn them beyond caring much.
I never had a team that wasn’t ready to put away the racket for a while at the end of the season. It’s call “periodization.”
Old football player–“Our coach is willing to lay down our lives for his school.”


I have written a lot about Coach Bill Miller, former basketball coach at Elon University. Even dared to use his language, which was rough. Here goes again: Elon established a FAMILY PASS issued to allow the holder and family members to all home athletic contests. Coach Miller noticed an older man who brought his grandson to a lot of home games. Miller gave him a pass. It wasn’t long before local feedback revealed the new recipient was badmouthing the coach, team, and school. Coach called “GRANDPA JOHN” in for an office visit. Conversation went like this: Miller: “John, you got that pass I gave you?” John: “Right here” and shows him the cardboard slip. Miller tears the pass into small pieces and hands to John. Miller growls: “That ought to be easier to stick up your ass. Now don’t come by my office again, or to one of my games.”

“Maximum Bob” Owens

Bob Owens was  one of thirteen,  the oldest of seven boys, before there was a girl.   Bob’s dad, Jack, was in the Navy in Hawaii.   A real hard assed war vet.    Bob was 18 years old, an All-American high school quarterback, and due to go to Wake Forest University on a full scholarship.

The night Bob graduated from his high school in Honolulu, Jack told him (1) Here’s $25 and my congratulations and (2) You don’t live here anymore, we need your bed.

Then he asked, “When are you enlisting?” Bob replied, “Dad, I’m going to Wake Forest, I’m deferred.” Jack repeated his question. Bob his answer.

Jack then said, “Bob, your country’s at war.   When are you going in?”

Almost immediately upon his arrival in Vietnam Bob was assigned “the point man” on a reconnaissance mission.    He stepped on a foxhole with a sniper pointing the gun straight up, shooting Bob point blank in the stomach.

After nineteen months in rehab, this fine young man walked out still with part of the bullet in his back.

I’ve never met anybody who was as “pure good” as Bob Owens.   He was to become my assistant coach, a dear friend, and be Wanda’s husband.

Wanda’s 1st husband had been killed in a parachute accident almost the time the twins, Jay and Todd, were born.

Their new father, Bob, brought them, at age 9 ,to our first tennis camp at Elon.

Physically they were identical. Personality wise – opposite.   Jay was mean as a snake, Todd – a pussycat.

They commuted to camp, but Jay learned the dorm “residents” were going to have a “water balloon fight” camp’s middle night – Wednesday.

It was Margaret’s idea, and our only water balloon fight ever.

The blond boys approached me about the event, with different agendas.   The conversation went like this:

Jay: “I heard ya’ll were having a water fight.”
Todd: “Yeah, and a night tournament.”
Coach: That’s right.”
Todd: “Our mom may let us stay Wednesday night.” Jay: “ Can we be in the water fight?

Coach: “Sure”
Todd: Will you let us play in the tournament?”
Coach: “Sure.”
Jay: “How many balloons do you get?”
Todd: “Will you help us keep score in the tennis tournament?”
Coach: “Sure.”
Jay: “Can you hit anybody you want to?”
Todd: “I’m not positive our Mom will let us stay.”
Jay: “We are staying for this.”
The next year Bob volunteered to work in Tennis Camp.   It took half the staff to watch Jay and Todd, so I was delighted.

Bob and Margaret could run the camp.   Throw in Kyle Wills and Eddie Gwaltney and our staff made a little needed money, plus we raised our kids in the camp.   A court, or gym, is not a bad place to rear a child.

Bob was all work, and kindness.   If I picked something up, he took it away from me and did it himself   He couldn’t sleep well because of Vietnam, so he’d put ’em to bed, and wake ‘em up.

The first night after a hard day at camp, I told Bob to leave the trash until morning. “Not so, can’t leave after fishing ‘til the boat is clean.  ” Capt. Jack” taught Bob well.   Oldest of thirteen made managing tennis camp a snap for Bob.

Bob soon became my Assistant Tennis Coach.

Once, after practice, Bob was blowing all the leaves off our 12-court facility.   When he circled by me, standing at the fence watching him, he stopped.

“Coach, what’s wrong?”   He could see the tears in my eyes.   I told him the truth.
“Bob, I just hope there’s not another American young person as good as you, about to be shot.” I was so wrong and am saddened by all the tragedy we are experiencing.

Why Teach and Coach?

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.

You never know who you’re influencing when you coach.   The same was true for teaching in college.   Formal classroom or just talking to kids.

A basketball player named Damian Carter appeared in my doorway one day at Elon.   He said he rode up and down I-85 often and had planned to stop by many times.

He was in his forties, had been a pretty solid player at Atlantic Christian, having transferred from UNC-Wilmington.   At Wilmington he hadn’t played as much as he wanted.   The same was true at ACC later on, and he found his chances of pro ball weren’t going to materialize.   He was about to quit college though his grades were good.

I don’t remember the specific conversation with Damien, but it was one of fifty I’d had with basketball players.

It went like this:

  1. Are you the first from your family to go to college?   Often the answer was yes.
  2. You’re not going to make $100,000 playing pro ball, you understand?
  3. You can get your degree and get a very good job.   People are looking for athletic people with degrees.
  4. Your job is to elevate your family and its expectations one generation.   Put your money in compound interest, and expect your children to go to college.

I agreed with Damian that was the gist of what I advised the “first kids.”   Damian smiled and added, “Coach, my two daughters have college degrees, and I’ve got a million bucks in the bank!”   Compound interest.

The Elimination Monologues

The Whites, the Robertsons, and the Parhams had become good friends. That was about to be tested.

Jeanne convinced Margaret that if Margaret could convince me, then she could convince “Left Brain”, a.k.a. “Junior” on an eight-day river rafting trip down the Colorado (“Color-Red”) River through the glorious Grand Canyon. The majority of the group (26 people) were professional speakers, part of a national “union” of speakers. Jeanne was the Matriarch.

“OK,” I said, “if Junior can do it, I can.” Margaret and I were “fillers” as the twenty-six number had not made. Really it was half and half, pro’s and “Tali-baptists.” While some of the speakers bolted (Evidently they had a “scouting report JR and I didn’t have), another speaker filled the boat with “happy clappers” about to become “happy crappers.” I was outnumbered immediately. Their “circle of love” included morning devotionals, prayer, and testimony. I tolerated that throughout my Baptist youth and remained fairly civil and fairly quiet.

Some of it got political. The combination put me over the edge. I needed Russell or Ed Perkins. The only thing worse than a neo-conservative Republican is a She-Publican, think Ann Coulter. My seat in the raft stationed me by Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady.” One off colored joke and I got the “aren’t you special” look. I figured we’re in this for eight days, how do I get past the “stare?” I found out she was a choir director. I challenged her to a “hymn” contest. You mention a Baptist hymn, I’ll tell you the words. Then it’s your turn. She wouldn’t even do that. Pissed, I sang the Doxology, “Bless be the Tie”, “There is a Fountain,” and on and on and on, yodeling my monotone floating down the Colorado.

Actually that week it was the “color-muddy” river, or “color-cucka” river. Looked like “Yoo Hoo Chocolate Milk.” And it was cold, then hot, scary as hell and then all work. Put up your tent. Take it down. Go find rocks to hold your tent down, haul in the cooking gear. I’d just retired. Plus Junior and I looked at the tent like a Rubik cube. No clue. Screw it, I ratcheted it up a level or two. I sang the Dog Song, bashed “little George Bush,” or “Shrub,” and questioned “Sparky.”

Tour Guide, “Sparky” first addressed some “omissions” from the brochure: rattlesnakes, scorpions, fractures, giardia, sand spurs, hypothermia, getting lost, slippery rocks, and on.

Then the real kicker. Elimination. We were about to get real familiar. Particularly for Baptists. Now nomenclature becomes important. Defecation and urinating? #1 and #2? Poop and Pee? Lots of names for the potty process. Actually they named it “Oscar.”

I haven’t seen Jeanne’s DVD that includes her side of this story. I limited my comments and scenario into the “Elimination Monologues.” Given that daily we were in a life or death situation you tend to resort to child- hood type fears. Mix this with “Sparky’s” pooping rules and the imagination runs wild.


Pooping at someone else’s house? Trying to fool them by silent fart? Clogging their toilet and having to ask for a plunger? Which way does the lid go? Aiming with special care?

The list goes on. Now at age 66 “Sparky” has some new rules:
1. Pee only in the river (the urine will cause fungus in the Canyon. Fungus? You could put North Carolina in this 286-mile valley.)

2. Poop only in Oscar. It is illegal to do so on land. No paper

3. Oscar rules: No “port-a-pot” luxury, it’s a simple “box with a hole.” Fire at will. Paper available, one hole for 26 rafters plus four staff. (People began to look at each other.) Take the sign with you. Return it to the line; we locate it at a “discreet” site at each different camp location. Each day we camped at different, (in a lot of ways) sites. There were some tricky variables. “The women go upstream, the men go downstream.” (Is that a pun, “Sparky”?) This alone caused confusion, sexual ani- mosity, and lost dignity. Many, myself included, abandoned protocol. Some were “tali-baptisits.”

Once, while whizzing where I thought proper, I heard a second and different “tinkle.” Looking down I saw the white ass of the “Church Lady” giving me that look from a lower position. I broke into “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, oh what a fore- taste of glory divine. Heir of salvation..” and carried on. Screw it. Peeing at night presented a fundamental problem. Where the hell is the river? Each location different. “Country” once advised me as to how to get up real early for a golf match. “Perm, you just as old as I am. ‘Bout the third or forth time you get up to piss, just stay up.” Simple.

It must be noted that post surgery my left leg never has worked well at all. In the middle of the night, I could barely get out of the friggin tent, then to find the river. Needless to say I got entirely lost. Couldn’t let go on the earth. Oh no, illegal pissing? I didn’t want to be the first one caught.

I wandered back though the tents, flashlight in had, having no idea which tent housed Margaret. One for sure didn’t. As I shone the light into my “best guess,” the “Church Lady”, plus curlers and sans makeup, gave me the “glare” again. 2:00 am. “You pervert.”

Finally I heard Margaret, “Tom, Tom, you idiot, over here.” She walked me to the edge of the river, where I upped the water level. Each afternoon our first official task was to help unload the two rafts. You found out quickly, though, you really needed to “fudge” and find your “tent rocks”. If you didn’t find the rocks your tent would blow away easily. Plus, if you waited, the other cheaters would scoff up all the accessible rocks.

About day two I noticed something peculiar. The “Church Lady” headed neither place, but to the cooks table. What for? I watched her while she watched the cooking guide can-opener the big Delmonte bean can. “Church Lady” grabbed it and left. Damn! A bedpan! Why didn’t they tell me to bring my urinal? I had several from all my surgeries.

Other women figured it out. Word of mouth, and the line grew.

As the cans grew smaller the women wondered about their volume and circumferences. I hadn’t watched a woman so concerned about the “bore” on something since Linda Lovelace stared down John Holmes in “Deep Throat.” I got me a can. Trouble was I had to wait till the end of the line. Baptist women stick together.

And it had a “corrugated edge” on it. Now picture a crippled, unstable old man peeing in a razor sharp can, probably too small for my potential. Stumble with your “member” in there, and your heart rate will go up. Soon the women sat in the muddy river in groups, some concentrating, some talking and peeing away. The men quickly adopted my attitude. Screw modesty. I’m just trying to get my ass home safely. Back to “Oscar” and “Sparky’s” rules:

4. Sparky said don’t pee and poop at the same time in Oscar. Huh? How I ask, can one’s most sacred moment of concentrative bliss be manipulated thusly? Can’t be done, I don’t care what you say. I questioned “Sparky’s credibility.

5. When “Sparky” said “if this system doesn’t work, we’d try another one.” Bullshit, “Sparky,” what other one is there?

In the military they give you a couple of minutes to crap. Women, especially older Baptist, wouldn’t make that dead line. While many were stymied by this process, I was doing well. One guy from Raleigh couldn’t make it work. Couldn’t do it. Seven days, “big cloud, no rain.” He was an angry man. Seven days sans movement will do that to anyone. What do you say standing in line to dump? Three ladies and me. I sang hymns, or told dirty jokes. I was gaining an audience. Now, when I farted in the “circle of love” several laughed. The “Church Lady” even smiled at me.

Another revelation with Oscar was you were often in open view of other boats coming down the river. They caught me every morning. They’d laugh and wave. I’d shoot ‘em the bird. I’d gotten it down pat. Not quite as effective or quick as Dan’s “straight,” but two minutes and I was gone. The night before we were to leave I felt good about crapping. One more morn- ing and I’m back to my “American Standard.” (Great name for a john).

Then….”Sparky’s” Revenge. TACOS. Spicy Tacos. As the twilight set in post meal rumblings became audible. “Escapee” poots from the ladies, even. Oscar’s line became lengthened with anxious ladies.
“Seven Days” was unmoved even by the tacos. I thought I was too, but then

I knew. There was gonna be some “Old Coach” action and soon. I wasn’t about to get in the back of that line of slow crappers. Seven women, maybe an hour’s wait. I had no underwear. We’d repacked at the trips start and I miscalculated. One pair of shorts left. I’d had to borrow a nice shirt from Jerry Robertson. JR said take it, but it was in for a traumatic evening. I was also wearing my black “Reebok” coaching shoes. I loved them. In fact, I’d worn them all week the year we’d won the NAIA National title in 1990. Sixteen years. Coaches are superstitious.

As darkness and bowel urgency mounted, I devised a plan. There were some “variables.” We’d selected our smallest landing area. “Seven Days” was nose to nose with our tent. We’d have to select a perfect site. There wasn’t one. Plus it was getting dark fast. Remember: Rattlesnakes and scorpions (and pooping). I’d convinced Margaret to go with me as “camouflage” for my secret deed. She’d even agreed to give me the last three “wipes” for the cleanup. We had run through a ton of wipes and we were still nasty.

Finally, I decided on the best cite option: a ditch about 8” wide. Someone said as a poker player I was “so lucky you could shit in a swinging jar.” This would test the quotation. Remember the limited balance, the impending darkness, and the sheer anger at ever electing to be in this predicament in the first place. The tension mounted. No doubt eminent action. I dropped my last pair of shorts. They hung on my “Reeboks” and I couldn’t shake them off my damaged left foot.

The ditch was on a hill; it tilted considerably, bringing into play, my aim. Almost dark, I drew a bead. Remember, too, we’re in the Grand goddamned Canyon, echo maximus. It startled even me. I couldn’t have hollered any louder. Viscosity quickly became an issue. Balance more so. Try as I may, my left foot wouldn’t hold. Blast that surgeon.

I not only shit on my foot, I shit on my shoes, my leg, my shorts, and Jerry Robertson’s new shirt. Then I fell in it. I covered it as best I could by hand. Margaret was shocked by my language. The smell got me. Then the thought: Will the “Shit Ranger” know? Will I be ticketed for illegal shitting? Would “Seven Days” hear, or smell, and turn me in as a “shit-felon?”

Next issue. What to do with me? Our space was a tent. I had no clothes. Margaret, a hardened nurse, was pushed to the max. No more so than the limited wipes. Saturation. Somehow she got my naked self semi-clean. Could we sleep a few hours one last night, after this trauma? About to doze off it became apparent, we’d missed something. Aha, the shoes. I couldn’t leave the tent. The “Church Lady” wouldn’t understand. Margaret buried the “Reeboks.”

All week “Sparky” had told us of the variations of rock strata throughout the vast, majestic canyon. The next day, as we sailed our final miles down the Colo- rado; I pictured a future archeologist discovering my Reeboks. They would hold them up to their fellow explorers and declare: “These shoes once won a National Championship, but they still smell like shit.”

I didn’t speak to Jeanne Robertson for a while after that. Margaret, bless her, loved the adventure and the canyons beauty. “Didn’t you love the sounds of the river and the natural beauty?” I replied, “We could have bought a CD and a coffee table book for fifty dollars.”