Tennis: Thompson recognized as top tennis pro
By Adam Houston
For the past 34 years, teaching tennis has been Jack Thonpson’s career. The Salisbury resident is 62 years old, and he has no immediate plans to slow down.
“It’s been kind of an interesting journey,” Thompson said. “I do look forward to work every day. It really isn’t like work. I get tired because I put everything into a lesson, but it is a good kind of tired.”
In February, Thompson was named the Professional of the Year by the Professional Tennis Registry — professional tennis’ equivalent to the Professional Golfers Association. He is the first tennis professional from North Carolina to win it since Scott Tharp in the 1990s. Thompson is one of only 43 Master Tennis Professionals in the world, certified by the organization.
“This award is presented to the PTR Professional who has displayed the highest standards of conduct and service to both tennis and PTR,” a release from PTR said. “Areas of consideration include service to PTR; participation in national, sectional or local tennis organizations; personal or student rankings/performance; exhibitions or speaking engagements; publication of articles; tournaments; coaching; tennis related volunteer/community service; and continued education.”
Thompson is the head tennis professional at Cabarrus Country Club, the director of tennis at the Old North State Club, and runs an academy at Performance Racquet Sports in Concord. He’s been the director of tennis at clubs in Virginia and North Carolina, including the Country Club of Salisbury from 1990 to 2000.
Thompson was the head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Catawba College from 2000-04. The Indians won more than 70 percent of their matches with him at the helm and they posted the best records in school history.
Thompson said 75 percent of the Salisbury High girls tennis machine have been students. He said he also taught three-time state champion Eric Sauders, who went on to win an ACC championship at N.C. State. Carson tennis coach Keri Holman, who played at West Rowan, was a student of Thompson’s. Marshall Wood, a Carson senior and Catawba signee, is another.
There are too many more to list.
As much as Thompson is a teacher, he is also a student. He attends conferences and speaks at symposiums about teaching tennis.
“I never stop trying to improve,” he said. “…It’s not how much you know. It’s how much you care. It’s how much you care about your students.”
Thompson remembers the days when American tennis boasted a majority of the top touring professionals in the world. Now, the top rated American tennis player is John Isner at No. 20.
Thompson’s philosophy is building a well-rounded player instead of a player that is a master of one style.
“I believe firmly you must teach a kid all the shots from an early age,” Thompson said. “You have to teach drives, slices, how to volley, how to hit the various serves.
“The hallmark of any good athlete is if something is not working, you own enough to change that game. What I’m seeing today is a very one-dimensional style of play where they teach the kid to hit a serve.”
Thompson said Switzerland’s Roger Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam champion and the No. 2 men’s player in the world, is the best example of what he teaches his students.
Thompson has seen a lot in his 34 years as a teacher. It wasn’t always smooth. All of it, however, was worth it.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t an easy profession to be in, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Jack Thompson’s career
1981-1990 director of tennis and general manager, Staunton (Va.) Racquet Club
1990-2000 director of tennis, Country Club of Salisbury
2000-04 head tennis coach, Catawba College
2004-08 director of tennis, Two Rivers Club in Williamsburg, Va.
2008-11 co-owner, co-director of Salisbury Tennis Academy with Tim Wilkison; director of tennis, City of Salisbury
2011-present head pro at Cabarrus Country Club; director of tennis at Old North State