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Coach Jimmy

Interview with Jim McCullaugh at the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center


Jim and Denise at the tennis center

J: Jimmy
D: Denyse
M: Michelle, interviewer

M: So tell me about yourself, what do you do here at the tennis center?

J: I’ve been here for five years working at the McCormick Nagleson Tennis Center (MNTC). At first, I just came as a member; after about a year they asked me if I’d be interested in working here part-time and I said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to!” It is two days a week, usually for a couple of hours, and I enjoy it.  I’ve gotten to a point where I really love doing it. In addition to that, I get to play as often as I can or want to with different people--in fact, I play too much at the moment! I just love working here!

M: So what do you do at your job?

J: My job mostly involves dealing with little kids and helping them. For instance, if they fall over, they usually need a Band-Aid so I’m the one who runs over and gets them a Band-Aid. I sit with them and console them, or if they have to go to the bathroom I’ll walk them over. Stuff like that, just small things not major things.

M: How do you like working with children?

J: Oh, I love it! They say the funniest things, they make it happen and make you laugh. 

Coach Jimmy on the court

M: Is there a fond memory you have with the children?
J: It happened about a year and a half ago, there were a couple of little sisters who were around five or six years old who came to the MNTC summer camp on a day when not that many people showed up. At one point, Coach Neely pulled out a game on her phone in which you had to guess what certain things were. I couldn’t guess anything but the little kids, they knew the answers! They were cracking up laughing at me. In fact, they have a photograph that says, “Sorry we weren’t laughing at you, we were laughing with you!” Little things like that are very, very memorable. I hadn’t seen them for over a year, when recently I was at their grandmother’s funeral and they were there. They remembered me as "Coach Jimmy."

M: Are you a resident of Williamsburg?

J: Yes, I’ve been here for five years. I love it here. Everyone is very welcoming.

M: What do you like about Williamsburg?

J: Three things: Pleasant weather, a low crime rate, and it’s a very friendly place. Plus, there’s always lots of things to do. There are free, outdoor concerts in the summer, the farmer’s market, and a great public library. I lived in New York, where an evening out was very expensive!   

M: It must’ve been very different coming from New York.

J: Oh, I was ready for the change because I retired from working but still enjoyed playing tennis. In New York, I would’ve had nothing to do to entertain myself because no matter where you go, it’s going to cost you money just to walk out the door. Even the cost of the subway went up to $2.75 for one ride. Here, I just get into my car and go. No worries about finding a parking space. New York is great for younger people, but older people, no.

M: Can you tell me about your family?

J: I’ve got a brother who lives in Australia, a brother who lives in London, and a sister who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. I haven’t seen either of my brothers in probably 20 years or more. I could never really afford to make a trip like that and go away for months. I didn’t want to impose myself on someone. My brother’s older than I am!

D: Tell them where you come from!

J: I come from Belfast, Northern Ireland, but I lived in New York for a little over 40 years.

D: Tell them how you started to play tennis!

J: A friend of mine had a couple tickets for the US Open, where Stan Smith was playing. He asked me to go with him. I had never been to a tennis match but I always enjoyed watching it on TV. I went with him to watch it. The very next day, I went and bought a tennis racket! I have very fond memories because when I was taking lessons at the US Open facility, I was lucky enough to meet a couple of very famous players, like Billie Jean King and Virginia Wade. My friend and I used to have season passes that allowed us to play on any tennis court in New York City.We played at the US Open tennis facility after work every Friday night.

When I came here, I didn’t think about playing tennis. I came to retire and live here.  I met this lady [Denyse] at the Williamsburg Inn one day. We were supposed to play tennis with a group of other people, but no one showed up except us. So, we played a game and sat down and chatted afterwards and the rest is history.

D: Who won that game?

J: Me! No, I don’t know, she’s a great player, much better than I am! It’s fun, it’s good fun.

Coach Jimmy and Coach Neely at MNTC