Q&A With U.P. Tennis Coach John Frye
John S. Frye — Union Pines’ longtime and legendary Viking head boys’ and girls’ tennis coach —recently received the inaugural Charlie Adams Distinguished Service Award for his diligent service and commitment to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
The award states Frye’s “exceptional involvement and effort on behalf of student athletes is deserving of honor.” Late last week Coach Frye sat down with The Pilot Sports team to answer a few questions regarding the award and his time at Union Pines.
Pilot Sports: What does an award like this mean to you?
John Frye: Back in the ‘70s, Charlie Adams was NCHSAA President Simon Terrell’s chief associate. Tennis was booming with added schools and increased participation, and it was decided the time had come to separate school’s by classes for the purpose of conducting state championships for each of the four divisions.
I had met Charlie, talking with him informally on a couple of occasions, and we easily developed a friendship. He asked me if I would be willing to take on the responsibility of conducting the 1A/2A state championships. I accepted the assignment, and directed both the men’s and women’s championships for more than a dozen years — until Union Pines moved up a class, joining the 3A rank.
Knowing the character and quality of Charlie Adams, who not only has served as North Carolina’s association leader for more than a quarter century, but has served in this capacity nationally, makes the award especially meaningful. Charlie represents the epitome of all that is good with the programs serving our state’s student-athletes.
PS: What makes this one special or standout?
JF: This is an accumulative recognition, representing the broad span of years that I have been privileged to work with our young men and women at Union Pines.
Scanning backward, how well I remember coaching indigent, starry-eyed freshmen who came into the tennis program hoping to make an impact on court in spite of not having previous tennis experience. Many of these came without equipment, often lacking racquets and shoes, but they came nonetheless, wanting to be part of something special.
It was challenging, to say the least, working with novices and fitting them into the program, but it is surprising how many became good players before graduating, and more than a few made significant contributions to the championships that the school has accumulated — and more importantly, all became better citizens.
At the other end of the spectrum are the players, seemingly born racquet in hand, who have graced the courts these past four decades. These are the elitist athletes, many having gone on to play collegiate tennis. They, for the most part, have carried the school to its myriad championships and made Union Pines visible state-wide.
A heterogeneous mix to be sure, but like the flavors offered by a spice rack, each has added to the savory concoction that is Union Pines tennis.
So for those who came with racquets finely tuned and proficient, and the latest Adidas and Nike footwear, as well as those who came in street shoes, the championships are yours and this award is yours, because you were never willing to settle for giving less than your best — and in the process you have allowed yourselves to become better men and women.
PS: What feelings were you experiencing when you found out you were to receive this honor, and also when you actually accepted it?
JF: My first thoughts centered on the marvelous support hierarchy we have at Union Pines. From Robin Lea, the administration, to Bobby Purvis, A.D., to the collection of parents, players and the community support that under girds and promotes the program.
At the presentation, Que Tucker (NCHSAA Deputy Executive Director,) who presented the award for the Association, reviewed some of the highlights of the past forty years, including the hundreds of victories that our teams have amassed. As Que smiled her congratulations, my thought was: My players have been marvelous.
PS: What is it you have enjoyed about working with high school student-athletes at a point in their lives when everything seems so grandiose and exciting?
JF: Few things are more exciting than winning and building confidence. The two are twins and each feeds off the other. And though in a few short years a high school career is completed, a winning attitude and the confidence it takes to compete at the highest levels of business, law, education or government never abandons us.
Athletic competition is a win-win exercise for young people. The carry-over between sports and the business community is phenomenal. Victories are gathered on court and on the playing fields only to be followed by additional wins in the vocational realm.
This is not Facebook, cell phones, iPods, or the cinema. The excitement that comes and the satisfaction that accrues when an athlete has stretched himself to the limits is infinitely more fascinating, more filling and enduring—and can never be matched by wireless and cyberspace.
PS: Is there anyone in particular you wish to acknowledge?
JF: My wife, Brenda, has never wavered in her support and encouragement. A wonderful athlete, she coached championship basketball and tennis teams at Vass-Lakeview for over twenty years. In that time she sent superlative athletes to Union Pines, all of whom benefited by her expertise as a teacher and coach.
Over the past dozen years, our daughter Jane Hart at New Century Middle School, has coached numerous championship tennis teams, her players, like her mother’s, feeding into Union Pines.
In my early years as a coach, Terrell West, a tennis professional, who was also a physical education instructor at Sandhills Community College, graciously took me under his tennis wing. Terrell willingly and selflessly shared from a copious storehouse of knowledge, assisting me with coaching strategies, drill formations and personalizing individual skill development.
Al Van Vliet, head tennis professional at CCNC, has likewise been most generous with his advice and expertise.
If my tennis vision is adequate, it is because I have stood on my friends’ shoulders.
PS: What have you gained from your involvement with tennis?
JF: Tennis has expanded my family. Some time ago, I received an invitation in the mail. The note was penned by a young woman who had played tennis with me during her high school career — a career that would see her win over 100 matches and multiple championships.
Upon graduation, the girl had received a prominent scholarship and, coupled with a sharp mind and the diligence born of hard work and determination, had worked her way through one of our state’s major universities.
The invitation was to join the congregation that would celebrate her marriage. Though my family had long planned a beach trip coinciding with the weekend of her ceremony, we agreed that I would attend the wedding.
My family had both a wonderful time at the beach — and a beautiful service.
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