RIPLEY – Would you like to improve your tennis game? Or perhaps, take up the sport for the first time.
Then D. Whitlock is the man to see.
In the past couple of years, Whitlock's passion for the game has been revitalized and he's sharing his love for the sport through lessons and clinics. Whitlock spends six days a week – three in Ripley and three in Point Pleasant – with individuals and groups.
Whitlock started playing tennis at the young age of seven while growing up in Kanawha City. "I lived right next door to tennis courts, basketball courts and baseball fields. Watt Powell Park was right there. I loved it," Whitlock said.
He became a standout in youth tennis and his game continued to flourish as he got older. Whitlock starred at old Charleston High, where he graduated in 1971, and then Morris Harvey College (now the University of Charleston).
"Tennis put me through college," said Whitlock, who was a West Virginia Conference champ for the Golden Eagles.
In his professional life, Whitlock worked in both the engineering and financial fields. He moved to Jackson County several years ago.
He is a member of USTA and USPTA. "I've been certified to teach. I've gone through the channels, gone through people and made my connections," he said. "I know tennis. I traveled tennis when I was young."
During his ascent in the sport, Whitlock played on the national city team and also competed in Junior Davis Cup competition. "I played all over several states," he noted.
Whitlock sees a good youth movement with the sport in Ripley and wants to keep it going. He's also on a mission to get more adults involved. "I am starting to get a few adults filtering in," Whitlock said. "I would like to start adult groups."
He would love to see Ripley and Jackson County as a whole become more of a "tennis community."
"It's a sport you can play forever," said Whitlock. "Believe it or not, there are sanctioned tournaments for 95 (years old) and over players."
Whitlock teaches tennis at Ripley City Park on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. He conducts workouts at Point Pleasant's Harmon Park on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
"As long as the weather is good, I'm out there," he said. "I don't recommend tennis under 40 degrees."
Currently his youngest student is five years old and his oldest is 64.
He starts beginners out with 30-minute sessions and ultimately graduates them to a full hour. Not only do those wanting to learn progress time-wise, but also with the size of the tennis ball. There are four – 36, 60, 78 and standard – that he uses during his time of instruction on the court.
Page 2 of 2 - He loves getting the "whole family involved" during his time of teaching.
Whitlock spent a lot of years away from the sport while being involved with the athletic life of his, Josh. The younger Whitlock was an outstanding baseball and basketball player at Ripley High School. He was the State Player of the Year in baseball during the season of 2004 in which he helped lead the Vikings to the Class AAA state championship. After a season with Surry Junior College in North Carolina, Whitlock pitched at WVU. Following his junior year in 2008, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and went on to spend four seasons in minor league baseball. Now married, Josh Whitlock resides in Charlotte and works for Verizon.
"He (Josh) says it (tennis) has replaced him," said Whitlock laughing. "We both miss baseball. I miss all the travel (of going to see his son play collegiately and professionally)."
Following Josh Whitlock's baseball career was indeed memorable for both D. and his wife, Sherry.
Now, he wants to make tennis memories for young and old alike in the county.
"One thing about tennis that I wish Ripley would take advantage of is tennis is something that is a quality of life," Whitlock said. "And if the city could sponsor and being a sponsor doesn't mean throwing (out) thousands and thousands of dollars, but be a sponsor of programs. If somebody wants to move here, that (sponsoring tennis programs for youth) is something they (the city) can offer."
He encourages anyone interested in learning more about the game of tennis to call him at (304) 532-9100 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
D. Whitlock can assure almost anyone who decides to give tennis a try that they will love it.