“People won’t always remember what you say. People won’t always remember what you do. But, they will always remember how you made them feel.”
Jamie Bell has tried to live by these words everyday in his 40 years of coaching tennis. Whether he is giving lessons to a young newcomer or practicing with one of his state-championship pupils, Bell always tries to help his students both improve their games and develop a lifelong love affair with the sport.
If there is a Mount Rushmore of Delta tennis, Bell’s likeness would be engraved on it.
He has been the tennis director of the Greenville Golf and Country Club since 2002, and the head tennis coach at Washington School for 29 years.
Because of his tireless dedication to the sport, Bell will be honored this Saturday when he is inducted into the Tennis Foundation of Mississippi Hall of Fame at the County Club of Jackson. Bell is the only inductee into the Hall of Fame this year.
“I am truly humbled to be given this honor,” Bell said. “It is something that I never dreamed would happen.”
Bell, 62, began playing tennis as a young boy at the Deer Creek Racquet Club in Leland. Bell was a fine athlete in football, basketball, baseball and golf, but grew to love the sport of tennis the most. Bell played college tennis at Mississippi Delta Community College and was the runner-up in the Junior College State Championship in 1976 and 1977. He also won the doubles title at Mississippi State in the intramural league.
Bell describes himself as a patient and loving coach who is “demanding when he needs to be.”
“I can be like a drill sergeant, but I am also extremely patient,” Bell said. “I understand the limits of the people that I teach, and I try to get all that I can out of them so they can have fun and enjoy the game because that is what it is all about.”
What makes tennis such a wonderful sport, Bell said, is that everyone can play it.
“I think all kids growing up should try to get involved in tennis,” Bell said. “I have never found anybody that could not play tennis, be it someone who was a natural athlete or an unnatural athlete. You can learn how to play. You have to invest a lot of time in it to be successful, but you do not have to invest a lot of time in it to have fun. It is a fun sport. It is a challenging sport. I don’t think tennis is an easy sport, but it is a sport that everybody can play.”
As a young adult, Bell worked at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas for 10 years before returning home to manage the Cypress Hill Tennis Club in Greenville.
He then came to the Greenville Golf and Tennis Club in 2002, and has helped to make it one of the best tennis facilities in the region.
“When I got here, there wasn’t much of a program, junior or adult. I would not say the facility was in shambles, but it needed a lot of work. We have done a lot of building since then. It is fun to watch things grow both on and off the tennis court,” he said.
Along with the growth of his club, Bell also takes pride in his success at Washington School where he has coached a number of teams and individuals to state championships. The Mississippi Association of Independent Schools named Bell the Class AAA Boys Coach of the Year in 2011-22012 and the Girls Coach of the Year in 2015-2016.
Bell is not just dedicated to the sport of tennis at his club and at Washington School, he has also given much of his time growing the sport in the Delta and in the state. Through the years, Bell has served as a USTA tournament official, a volunteer for numerous tournaments as well as a director and referee for numerous charitable events, including the Cotton Belles tournament, the Make-A-Wish Tournament, and the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital Tennis Benefit.
Bell and his wife Marla, a second grade teacher at Washington School, are the parents to four children and one grandchildren.
While Bell is honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, he said it does not mean his tennis journey is nearing its end. He said he plans to keep teaching the sport he loves for as long as the Good Lord will let him.
“As long as my body will let me do it, I am going to keep doing it,” he said. “I am not a sit-at-home person. I spend most of my life at this club because I love what I do. I love the people. I love the sport. I love this community, and I love this club.”