Walk through the tennis complex at Idle Hour Club, and it’s easy see that word repeated: in the tennis shop, on banners and along the fence of one of the tennis courts.
Craig Jones has a lot of sayings scattered through the tennis academy, but there’s one that stands out.
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“Believe in yourself,” Jones said.
He’s a believer, and he wants the 30-plus members of his tennis academy to follow the same philosophy. In 2005, when Jones arrived from Rome, he said Macon didn’t have a strong foundation in junior tennis. More than a decade later, he has players coming in as far as Atlanta to travel down I-75 and train with him.
“When the club hired me, they wanted a strong junior tennis program,” he said.
In11 years, he has helped build a foundation for junior tennis as it is continuing to grow in Macon.
Jones has no problem showcasing the achievements of the players in his academy. All around the lower tennis courts, he has plaques made for the players who have done well in a tournament and the year they accomplished it. And in his office, he has more personal items, such as pictures of some of the players he has helped play Division I tennis in college, along with thank you notes from others.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Jones said of the accomplished players who have come through his academy. “It makes me feel great to see that they come through this program and they’ve developed.”
This fall, Michael Durham (Auburn), Miller Durham (Kennesaw State), Ariadna Riley (Tennessee), Sachin Khurana (Mercer) and Preston Anderson (Tennessee) are all going to be playing on the Division I level.
Miller said didn’t always have a goal of playing Division I tennis. He grew up working with his dad, who played at Florida State, and when his father connected him and his brother, Michael, with Jones, that vision changed.
“Other people come through this program, graduate and play collegiately,” Miller said. “So I guess a year or two into it, I decided that I wanted to do that.”
Miller is one of many players who go out to Idle Hour a few times a week to train with Jones. He said there are about 30 players who are there a couple of times a week to improve their game. But why travel to Macon? What makes players come to the academy from outside of Middle Georgia?
“A lot of academies in Atlanta might have 150 kids,” Jones said. “And they’ll have 20 incredible kids out of that 150. We only have 25 kids (in our academy), and we’ll have 25 incredible kids.”
Jones said makes his camp stand out is that he doesn’t just work with the best players, he makes sure all of his players are the best. But the most important thing to Jones and the players of his academy isn’t necessarily the success they have, but the impact he leaves on them on and off the court.
So when players see the banners labeled “believe” and “be different,” Jones isn’t just saying it to be saying it. He wants his players to know he cares.
He wants them to “believe.”