Jay James got into tennis because his older cousin needed someone to practice with before going out for the team at Eastern Wayne.
James had been more focused on baseball, basketball and football before that.
The Cape Fear Christian Academy girls tennis coach eventually beat his cousin and a career path was established.
James narrowed his competitive realm to basketball and tennis at Rosewood High School and accepted a grant to play both sports at nearby Mount Olive.
A chance circumstance created a life adjustment for James again at Mount Olive. He broke his ankle in a pick-up basketball game with several of the Trojan golfers and was unable to compete for a span.
James left Mount Olive and played tennis while at Wayne Community College. He later contacted Greensboro College, which had recruited him in high school, and made a fresh start there, playing basketball and tennis.
A little tentative on the basketball court because of apprehension about reinjuring the ankle, James turned to tennis exclusively after one season of hoops with the Pride.
He was part of a still unmatched period of success for Greensboro College in tennis and still holds an abundance of school records. James helped the Pride to a national ranking. His singles record playing Nos. 1 and 2 was 42-16 in three seasons at Greensboro and he was 40-13 in doubles.
He was honored with inclusion on the USA South Conference’s 50th anniversary team in men’s tennis.
James moved on from college to play on the United States Satellite Professional Tour and had another life-changing experience at a tournament in Arizona.
“There was a pro named Jim and he looked like something out of the 1970s,” James recalled. “He had the headband, the wristbands, the high socks, the whole nine yards.”
But he also had some influential advice. Jim told James to consider becoming a teaching professional.
“He said whether he and his wife bought groceries depended on how he did each week,” James said. “He asked me if that was the position I wanted to be in.”
James successfully went through an elaborate process of testing in Myrtle Beach, scoring in the highest category to become an elite teaching pro. James had to hit balls into small hula hoops on the opposite side of the court and provide lessons to different age groups and skill levels as he was evaluated for his teaching accreditation.
James also is an accomplished singer. He was selected as a performer for Alabama Theater Producers at an audition in Myrtle Beach.
Singing also played a big role in his life when he was performing at a friend’s wedding. The setting led to a date with his future wife, Amber Cook, who is from western Harnett County. James resisted attempts to set him up with Cook initially.
“I didn’t want a blind date,” he said.
Years later, Amber is a pharmacist in Lillington and the couple have three children — Brayden (12), Makayla (10) and Dalton (7), who are enrolled at CFCA. The family is active at Neill’s Creek Baptist Church.
James has been a teaching pro at several prestigious locales including Highland Country Club in Fayetteville, Dark Branch Racquet & Swim Club in Fayetteville and Walnut Creek Country Club in Goldsboro.
He has degrees in Business Management and Accounting.
James helped develop Charlie Drew, who won an NCHSAA 3-A singles championship at Eastern Wayne in 2003 and Andy Orban of Terry Sanford, who won the state 4-A singles crown in 2005. Drew played at N.C. State and Orban went on to play for Maryland.
James teaches the game for success at high levels.
Ranked statewide and nationally as a professional, James now directs the Harnett County Tennis Academy, which is based at the Lillington Recreation Department courts. James can be reached at (910) 890-9317 regarding lessons.
CFCA will expand its schedule to compete in the Sandhills Athletic Conference in 2018. The Eagles will be young.
“If the girls stick with it and play and get better, I don’t think we’ll have any problem competing for state championships in a few years,” James said.
CFCA is scheduled to open the season at Rosewood, James’ alma mater, on Aug. 16.
James will be returning to Wayne County, where his journey in tennis began.
“I have loved the game of tennis ever since being introduced to it by my cousin (Louis Crow) the summer before my eighth-grade year,” said the USPTA elite professional. “Tennis is a great game that can be played for a lifetime. I hope to teach and play for many years to come.
“I enjoy meeting new people and working with both junior and adult players individually and in groups.”