By Jeff Sikes, USTA.com
Jason hitting a forehand
© Jen Pottheiser
Jason hitting a forehand
© Jen Pottheiser
TUCSON, Ariz. -
Having a son born with a handicap is a father’s worst nightmare. But seeing your son take a bad set of cards at birth, deal with it, and flourish as a fine, upstanding citizen as well as an incredible tennis player, would be a father’s dream come true.
Such is the case for Jim Cumpton’s
, a 31-year old from Edmond, Okla., here this week at the 4.5 USTA League National Championships in Tucson, Ariz.
Jason was born with a shortened right arm, and just two fingers in his right hand, a defect that many thought would make the vagaries of life - not to mention athletics such as tennis – difficult at best.
Not so and Cumpton’s presence here this week in Tucson is testament to determination as much as it to the wicked skill set he displays on a court.
”When he was a week old we took him to the doctor for another little problem he was having right away,” said Jim, who’s here with his son this weekend to watch him play at the national championships. “The doctors then told me ‘Your kid has got a good heart and a good mind, so you just need take what you’ve been given and let him run with it.’ Jason has lived his whole life that way, he’s been running the whole time, and he’s done everything on his own.”
As a kid growing up in Ardmore, Okla., Cumpton played baseball and even a little golf, but it was tennis where he found the most success, even though his first brush with the sport wasn’t exactly positive. Short-sighted instructors at Cumpton’s first-ever tennis camp told him that he might want to find another sport because his handicap would make serving and returning difficult.
Little did they know a few years later Cumpton would be winning an Oklahoma high school state doubles title with just one arm, even carrying his now deceased mother Linda to the court when she was too sick to make it there on her own, just so he could watch him play.
Cumpton went on to attend East Central University in Ada, Okla., on a tennis scholarship and succeeded there, even serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater for a year. Cumpton’s been proving doubters wrong from day one with fierce determination.
”I think everyone thinks or sees me as the one arm tennis player, but I’ve never really thought of it as a disadvantage because I’ve never known anything else but this, and maybe in some way that’s helped me,” said Cumpton. “I have a strong left arm and I play a power game but I’ve still got plenty of finesse.”
Cumpton’s Southern California opponents on Friday witnessed that display as he was clearly the best player of the foursome on the court. He was easily dropping 110-m.p.h-plus serves, and carving up some spectacular lob and drop volley winners. So much for a handicap.
”The toughest part of getting tennis down for me was always just getting the service toss straight,” said Cumpton. “Once I got that mastered, everything else sort of fell into place.”
Cumpton’s amazing feats aren’t limited to tennis, either. He won a long drive golf event recently with a 300-plus yard booming drive, and is an eight ‘handicap’ golfer. Yes, he hits a golf ball one handed, too. He and his wife Stacy
- a 4.5 player in her own right who made it to the 2006 Nationals – play together often and own and run Emrick’s Van Storage, a successful moving company back in Edmond.
The couple have even won a few mixed tournaments together, though family demands lately (the Cumpton’s have two sons – Jacob
(5) and Caleb
(1) have made getting to the court a less frequent occurrence. Jacob even had a noon lesson on Saturday scheduled here in Tucson.
”Jason’s a better guy than he is a tennis player and I think that says a lot, because he’s a helluva’ tennis player,” said Roge Fowler, Cumpton’s captain here this week, and back in 2004, when his team went on to win a title in the 4.0 division. “He’s a real family man, and he’s successful in a lot of other areas, too.”
Which is enough to make any father proud.
”I am always filled with pride when I see my son out there playing,” said Cumpton. “ Back
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