» News

Got a Minute?

July 30, 2013 12:06 PM
Chris_Humphreys_001The number of young tennis players in New Mexico who go on to compete at the Division 1 level in college is small. How small? During a good year, perhaps two or three. Many years, none. Chris Humphreys grew up in Albuquerque and was awarded a partial scholarship by Elon University, a D-1 private school in Elon, North Carolina. Humphreys won the Class A-AAA singles as a freshman at Sandia Prep in 2010.  The following year he won the Class AAAAA singles as a sophomore at Valley High School. He spent the last two years of high school at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas. Some notable alums of Newcombe’s are Ryan Harrison, Lleyton Hewitt, Li Na and David Nalbandian. Toby Smith recently sat down with Humphreys to talk about the experience.
What was a typical day like there?
You get up at 6 a.m. for practice, which lasts an hour.  Then you do for 30-45 minutes of fitness. On Tuesdays, we always ran “the hill.” It takes 25 seconds to sprint up this hill and every time we ran it at least one person threw up.  Other days we did four-to-five half-mile sprints. Two days a week at night we worked with weights in the gym. 
No breakfast? 
Nope. You do all this on an empty stomach.  After fitness, it’s off to New Braunfels High School, 10 minutes away in a van. You can wear what you want at the Ranch, but at the high school there’s a dress code.  You’re there from 9 until 3.
What was the high school like?
The locals called the Ranch kids “Newkies.” Some Newkies would fall asleep in the back of  class. I know I was always tired, but I got good grades.  It wasn’t that challenging. This year I got all A’s and one B.
How many people go to Newcombe’s?
There are usually 30 who board there and then 30 more who commute.  Those who live there stay in a dormitory, like college. I was lucky to have my own room this year.
What happens after school?
We get back to the Ranch at 3:15 and practice from 3:30 to 6:30.  We have matches a lot of that time. If you want to work on a technique, you can take a lesson with one of the coaches.
Does John Newcomb ever show up?
He usually comes a couple of times a year.  He lives in Australia the rest of the time.  He runs a fantasy camp at the Ranch.  My girlfriend’s father is the chief operating office of the Ranch.  I went out to dinner a couple of times with Newk and talked to him. He plays a lot of golf now.
Did you make improvements at Newcombe’s? 
There were two main reasons why my game got me into a D-1 school. One was working with Johnny Parkes, when he ran the LPTA at the Lobo Club.  The other was the people at Newk’s. Johnny helped me a lot on the mental side. He taught me about keeping a positive attitude and thinking you’re never going to miss a ball. I went to Newk’s as a really defensive player.  I couldn’t attack. I liked playing defense, but in college tennis you need to attack.  At Newk’s it’s all about a big serve and big forehand.
Tell me about the coaching.
Phil Hendrie is the head coach and director.  He’s the most inspirational person I have ever met. He is up every day at 5 a.m.  He cleans the courts and then leads us in fitness.  He has bad knees but he ran with us and never complained. He does afternoon practice with us, too. Then he teaches and gives lessons until 10 p.m. Phil really helped me in the recruiting process. If a kid wants to play college tennis, Phil will do everything he can to make it happen. 
How did you come to choose Elon?
I always wanted to play D-1 tennis. I was looking at a few schools.  A lot of people on my Dad’s side of the family grew up in North Carolina. I had visited there as a boy and my Dad used to live there. My girlfriend, Liza Fieldsend, will going to North Carolina State in the fall.  
I’m assuming you visited the Elon campus.
I went twice this past year.  The coach is very polished and knows what he’s doing. I enjoyed the team environment.  I felt comfortable there.
Any regrets about going to Newcombe’s? 
One. I wished I’d gone earlier.  I would have hit a lot more tennis balls if I had.
Did you miss playing high school tennis in Albuquerque?
I did.  The year I played at Valley was my favorite year of high school.  I liked the guys and Coach Juan [Martinez, the boys coach] was great. 
If you know someone who might be a candidate for the Got a Minute? feature, contact tobysmith68@gmail.com and tell why.