Humphrey Gets Creative In Growing Local Tennis
New to the St. Louis area? Venturing out in the world and need to find a court near you? Not sure where to find a court nearest you? A great way to locate that court is TennisMaps.com.
The coolest part? The brainchild of the site is from right here in the St. Louis area – and he is the recipient of a USTA Missouri Valley Gold Star Award. James Humphrey has earned the Gold Star Award for his efforts in Southern Illinois with the Simpson Memorial Program and so much more.
As a kid, James found an old wooden tennis racquet in the basement of his house and so began his love for tennis.
“I just liked the challenge and the feel of hitting the ball,” he said. “All I had was a forehand, but I still enjoyed playing anyone and especially lobbing my taller opponents.”
James spent his college days at Mizzou and ended up in Austin, Texas where he played successfully in area leagues. However, the Riverbend area called him home and the local tennis community could not be more fortunate to have him.
USTA St. Louis Board of Directors Secretary John Kelly said the contributions James has made to tennis in the area have been numerous – especially this year in the wake of COVID-19.
“James held one of the first events after we returned,” Kelly said. “It was a NET (non-elimination Tournament) which includes newer players. It is a really good way to introduce kids to tennis. Prior to the event he worked with Carobeth (USTA St. Louis Junior Competition Coordinator Carobeth Kelly) to ensure all the proper protocols were in place for safety. He implemented everything you could imagine.”
“After the event he prepared a very thoughtful summary of things that went well, things that didn’t work as planned and things he would do differently next time and shared it with Carobeth. That is rare and very helpful."
While he certainly likes to keep parts of his game strategy old school, technology has given James a great way to keep players connected to courts everywhere with TennisMaps.com.
Enter your location and at your fingertips is a list of not only courts nearest you, but also whether the court is public, a phone number if it available as well as a map of where you can find pros in the area.
“I am really proud of TennisMaps. It's a project that I started in 2006 and has turned into a partnership with USTA that has resulted in documenting over 60,000 facilities in the United States. The whole idea is to help people find nearby places to play through a Google Maps interface and accurate and complete information,” he said.
Even more, the work with the Simpson Memorial Tennis program (SMTP) is bringing the game to so many in Southern Illinois. Not only does the program work to organize and run four major tournaments in Alton, IL, per year (Alton Open, Bud Simpson Open and the Alton Junior Open), the committee helps the area advocate for local courts and youth programs in the area.
James has been on the committee since 2012.
He hopes to make the sport more accessible to even more people. How? Tweaking the format a bit. Marathon events? Not so much.
“I think the future of tennis is more frequent and shorter format events to help casual players turn into consistent players.”
When he is not working to bring tennis to a wider audience, James enjoys spending time with his wife, Dawn and his two sons (14, 11). The family loves to use their leisure time running along the Mississippi River.