Tim Lacombe gets ready to back hand the ball. Submitted photo

Tim Lacombe’s ebullience and passion for tennis was like a rousing jolt of caffeine from a morning cup of strong coffee for Steve Woods.

Woods, 61, dropped 110 pounds and now finds himself gearing up for the United State Tennis Association (USTA) nationals after playing with and learning the sport for a year from Lacombe, 39, who has been the head racquet sports professional at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth since 2019 and is a lifelong resident of Lewiston.

Woods never picked up a racquet until a couple of years ago before being introduced to the affable Lacombe, whose enthusiasm for the game helped change Woods’ life. Lacombe’s skills as a coach coupled with his positive, infectious personality is an inspiration to all his students. 

COURTING SUCCESS

The Woodlands tennis instructor, whose life centers around the game, has no interest in slowing down.

“For me, it is the people I work with,” Lacombe said. “The members of The Woodlands Club are absolutely amazing. I love to teach and I am a student of the sport. I learn from the people who I come across every day.

“In my job, I have to interact with many different people, different ages, different cultures. It has been a very rewarding career. To take students from a young age and to see them go off to college, to players picking it up at the age of 60 and playing on a USTA team and going to a national championship — to me that is just priceless. For me, I love it and I don’t see me stopping anytime soon.”

His job, besides playing, coaching and captaining many teams at The Woodlands, also involves building the USTA.

“I have many teams of different abilities and different age groups,” he explained. “My personal team that I actually play on is going to the New England Championships in August …

“From September to June, it is all local seasons for many age groups and levels, and so that is considered our local area season. Once that is complete, July starts all the championship rounds. We just completed mixed doubles. 

“I had multiple teams that made it to the sectional championship, (including) my mixed doubles, 40-and-over team at The Woodlands, which is made up of people who just picked up a racquet for the first time … and who played more because they were looking to be more active during the pandemic. These are kind of beginners to intermediate players. They won, so they are going to Orlando in November. I have personally been to nationals seven times as a player.” 

A GENUINE TESTIMONIAL

Woods was Lacombe’s first member at the Woodlands when Lacombe started there — and now Woods is heading to the nationals in November.

“(Woods) picked up tennis just to play with a couple of corporate buddies and not look foolish,” Lacombe recalled. “We hit together a couple of times a week.”

“I have been taking lessons from him the last year and half,” Woods, who owns a marketing company in Falmouth, said. “He is a great coach and I enjoy it tremendously. We qualified for the nationals in November and Tim played a big part of that.”

Sports also played a central role in Woods’ career. He has been around tennis for 30 to 40 years, including being a professional tennis tournament manager on the ATP tour, but he never took the opportunity to play the game.

“I used to be more heavily into sports,” Woods said. “I was an NBA agent, regionally, baseball agent, I was co-owner of the Maine Red Claws. I owned part of an NBA team. I owned a lot of businesses around sports.”

Woods is grateful to Lacombe for taking him under his wing.

“Tim is one of the best teachers of tennis I ever met,” Woods said. “He is one of the most positive, enthusiastic tennis ambassadors I ever met. His license plate says, ‘Tennis Tim.’ When a guy goes to the point of putting ‘Tennis Tim’ on his license plate, that is certainly a significant commitment.

“I think Maine is lucky to have Tim as both a resident and as a tennis coach. I think The Woodlands is lucky to have him as the head of tennis. The thing that I admire about Tim is that at nine in the morning he can give lessons to the top amateur tennis players and at 10:30 he can be giving instructions to young kids just being introduced to tennis.”

Woods trains with Lacombe usually in the wee hours of the morning, but what amazes Woods is how Lacombe will remain at The Woodlands to teach clinics in the evening.

BACK IN THE DAY

Lacombe attended the University of Southern Maine for two years, but his fervor for tennis won out and he left the university.

“The owner of my former employment — The Racquet and Fitness Center — was my mixed-doubles partner,” he recalled. “One day she said: ‘Timmy, you are so good with people. Why don’t you teach tennis?’ l ended up taking a job and I have been teaching ever since.”

Lacombe played basketball and tennis at Lewiston High School and was former tennis coach Rene Chicoine’s No. 1 singles player for the Blue Devils.

“It really all started playing with Rene,” Lacombe said. “I knew the Rene Chicoine-Anita Murphy family since I was a kid. Rene really kind of encouraged me to keep playing tennis. So it really wasn’t until after high school I had gotten really good. I didn’t play for USM. I ended up playing for a USTA team. I was introduced to USTA when I was about 19. That was kind of my college team — my USTA team.”

Chicoine is well aware of Lacombe’s successful career as a tennis instructor.

“He was my No. 1 his senior year,” Chicoine said. “He is a very, very likable guy — very friendly, very personable. He could interact with anybody. He was my No. 1, and if he wasn’t winning and I thought he should be, I’d play him — and I could beat him. I beat all my No. 1s at some point. I never had a tennis lesson in my life. I picked up a tennis racquet when I was 30 years old.” 

After Chicoine beat Lacombe, the venerable coach pulled his No. 1 player aside and gave him a few pointers.

“I said, ‘Tim, come up to the net and we will have a little talk,’”Chicoine remembered. “I said, ‘You should be beating me. You are hitting ball better than I am.’ ‘I am?’ he said. “I said, ‘You are, and I am going tell you how to beat me, OK? I want to keep beating you, but you should be beating me.’

“So we played and got (Lacombe) to a point where he was beating me — and I couldn’t beat him after that.” 

Lacombe sees tennis as a healthy release and essential to his health.

“For me, it is not just the physical; it is the mental,” Lacombe said. “Health is really important. When I was a kid, it was just great to hit something. It is really a release and I play tennis with my mind. I don’t hit as hard as people at my level, but I out-think people. So for me, it is almost like playing chess. 

“Asplayer, I really enjoy that. As a teacher, I like to think with my students and encourage them to be instinctive and creative. I still love to play and I think that my students really appreciate me still getting out there and playing.

“So for me, I am always going to be a lifelong student of the sport (and) learn from everybody.”

Tim Lacombe is the head racquet sports professional at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth. Submitted photo


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