Enoch Thompson has been a pillar in the DC tennis community for decades. Last year, he was named a USTA Local Hero for his work on the court and acting as a positive role model for youth. We caught up with Enoch to ask about his tennis journey and tennis in Washington over the years.
What brought you to DC?
I came to DC in 1970 to study architecture at Howard University from the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas.
How long have you been playing tennis? How did you get started ?
I was gifted a set of racquets my junior year at Howard University. I was no longer playing baseball and needed something to do. I have never taken a tennis lesson. I taught myself to play by watching others and reading.
What or who inspired you to learn and continue to play tennis? What inspired you to teach?
Growing up in the Bahamas, tennis was looked at as a “girl” sports, and I admired Arthur [Ashe] and Pancho Gonzales. My entire family plays tennis; that includes my wife and four children. When my children began to take on tennis competitively, I caught the coaching bug.
How did baseball play a role in the development of your tennis career as professional tennis instructor?
In baseball you can foul off a million balls and still have the chance to hit a home run, unlike tennis where the ball is either in or out. Baseball taught me to focus and life lessons from being on a team
How has tennis changed since you started teaching and playing? What is the most profound change you have seen?
Just with technology tennis has changed so much. There is no way you could play with a wooden racquet now. You would have all kinds of tennis elbow. The biggest change I’ve seen is the 10U format. 10U tennis has made for an early start into to tennis for kids, just like other sports have. With the modify equipment we [tennis instructors] are able to make more with less and be creative when it comes to teaching. Tennis can be played outside of a regular court and even without a net. That was the real game changer when it comes to accessibility.
Being in the nation’s capital where the most political decisions are made, do you think politics has played a role in how tennis has changed here ? How so or why not?
In some ways politics has changed tennis here in DC. Tennis has always been powered by the people. With the different pockets of tennis all over the city the community isn’t really cohesive .
What would you consider to be the turning point in tennis for players of color?
After the age of Arthur, Althea and Poncho, came a lot of great players of color. People of color had a face in the tennis. Serena and Venus have been just great. Things really began to change for players when people like you [USTA MAS staff member Ebonye Jones] began to take on roles with the USTA. Information and resources like trainings became easier to access to be in the community.
What do you love the most about tennis?
The love that comes with the game . Friends become family with tennis . My entire family plays tennis and the game has been the consent activity that brings us together. A family that plays together stays together.
If you had one advice to your younger self what would it be?
Be flexible when people offer criticism.