by Kingsley Hunter
Attention Spartans! Mr. Larry Holmes was recently hired as the new head coach of the talented women’s and men’s tennis team. Holmes had previously coached at Virginia Tech as a volunteer assistant for their women’s tennis team in the 2019-2020 season.
Coach Holmes arrived at Norfolk State in January 2021 and has nothing but high hopes for this season. Holmes shed light on what brought him to Norfolk State and how tennis became a big part of his life.
“So, my boss at Virginia Tech told me about Norfolk State and I applied. What drew me here was to be at an HBCU since I played and graduated from one. I kind of understood the landscape and culture,” said Holmes. “That’s one of the biggest things I truly miss. My love for tennis came at an early age and my uncle was a club champion, and he would always drive me out and I would always ask to play. So, one day a free camp came, and the rest is history.”
The sport of tennis has been a huge part of the coach’s life since he was little, and the bulk of his passion comes from tennis legend Serena Williams. Holmes mentioned that he has been following the recent Australian Open competitions and discussed why Williams is a huge inspiration to him.
“Listen, I am a fan of Serena because pretty much she and I are the same exact age, and to see the things that she is doing at the age of thirty-nine after having a baby is remarkable. Also, for her to come back and to play at a high level, that’s impressive, to say the least,” said Holmes.
Serena Williams is arguably the greatest athlete of all-time and has won twenty-three grand slam titles which are the most in the Open Era.
The Lady Spartans opened their season with a win over Virginia Wesleyan in dominating fashion winning 7-0. The men’s team started their season with a loss to Old Dominion, but the men will certainly find a way to bounce back with coach Holmes at the helm.
Holmes listed what he saw in the season openers and what he hopes to see for the rest of the 2021 campaign.
“The energy, the enthusiasm that both teams played with,” said Holmes. “Because when I talked to my team about their previous seasons, they did not always have that high energy. Competing and fighting for each other is what it is all about.”
In other sports such as football, basketball, and soccer, it takes an entire team to be successful and tennis is the same way. Holmes knows that playing with enthusiasm and confidence goes a long way in order to build a winning culture. He is adamant about voicing this message to his rosters as he is also adamant about conveying his concerns towards his teams’ academics. “
“So, whenever I recruit a student-athlete, I always tell them if you want to play tennis 24/7 this isn’t the school for you. So, the biggest thing for me is to make sure they are doing well in their classes. So far, both teams have the highest GPA in the whole department with a 3.7,” Holmes said.
Coach Holmes values his team’s performance in the classroom just as much, if not more than their performance on the tennis court.
As for who he is personally, Holmes gave a little insight about himself and a few things the Spartan community might like to know about him.
“I am a very personable person,” said Holmes. “I’m the type of person who is easy going, easy to talk to, and, hopefully, we can see some of our student body at our contests this season. Three fun facts about me are that I met tennis legend Arthur Ashe when I was ten years old a week before he passed, I have two-hundred pairs of Nike athletic shoes, and my favorite foods are wings and fries.”
Knowing how extremely passionate coach Holmes is about the game of tennis, meeting Arthur Ashe must have been a dream come true for the coach. Ashe was the only black man to win singles titles at the US Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon. Arthur Ashe obviously had all the attributes to be an all-time tennis great, which led to Coach Holmes giving his thoughts on what it takes to be great at the sport created in 1873.
“Well, first off, you must have a passion and love for the game,” said Holmes. “Secondly, you must be athletic because tennis is such a fast-paced sport. And, the last thing is that you must be court savvy. Pretty much, you must be a student of the game.”
The world was hit with the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020 and society has taken strict safety measures to hinder the spread. Coach Holmes vocalized his thoughts on the matter and the safety precautions he places during his practices.
“The main thing that I encourage student-athletes is to wear a mask, social distance a lot and, whenever we have a team meeting, I make sure that we social distance. On and off the court, they should wear their mask, sanitize their hands, and just do the little things to beat this thing,” said Holmes.
In any level of competition, no matter the sport, the goal is to win the championship. Teams practice and put in lots of hard work and time to hopefully be able to call themselves champions. Coach expressed that winning a conference title and a trip to the NCAA tournament would be a tremendous goal, but he values character building most of all.
“To a certain degree it is about me helping them become better tennis players,” Holmes said. “But for me, it’s all about being a good person as soon as you step off that tennis court.”