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RECREATION: Serving up instruction
The tennis and basketball courts are side by side at Lake Land’Or subdivision in Caroline County.
So, while many of their friends were shooting hoops, brothers Jim and Rob Light grabbed their tennis rackets, hopped on their bicycles and hit balls back and forth for fun.
“We were just playing around,” Rob Light said.
Things got more serious as the brothers grew older.
Jim Light became the Battlefield District singles champion at Caroline as a senior in 1994. After his graduation, the family moved to Roanoke, and that’s when Rob Light’s interest in the sport took off. He was the No. 1 singles player for a Salem squad that reached the state tournament in two of his three seasons.
The Light brothers have been back in the Fredericksburg area for a number of years. And they’ve both earned professional certifications from the U.S. Tennis Association.
Rob Light has been the tennis pro at Fredericksburg Country Club for 10 years. Jim Light was his assistant from 2006–13 until he was hired last year to become the tennis pro at Fawn Lake Country Club in Spotsylvania County.
“Looking back, it’s hard to believe this much time has passed by and we’re still on the courts,” Rob Light said. “But when you enjoy it that much, you don’t think about it being work. You think about it being something that you love to do.”
Jim Light didn’t go on to a college career after high school. But Rob Light was four years younger, so he took his love for the sport a step further.
While in high school, he worked as the racket stringer at Roanoke Country Club. The staff was short-handed one day and needed instructors for a youth clinic, so Rob, then 16 years old, was enlisted to help.
“They said, ‘You’re pretty good at this, so we’re going to keep using you,’” Rob Light said. “That’s kind of where I got my start.”
After a standout career at Salem, he went on to Hampden–Sydney College, where he was teammates with Fredericksburg native John Moss.
When Fredericksburg Country Club had an opening 10 years ago, Moss informed Rob Light. Joe Botkin, FCC’s general manager, said Rob Light has been a hit with his students ever since.
Botkin also said during the time the brothers worked together, it was a perfect fit.
“It was their personality, their enthusiasm, their love for the game,” Botkin said. “You could see that being instilled in the young kids. It wasn’t like they were going through the motions. You could see the intensity that they loved what they were doing, especially Rob.”
It could’ve been awkward with Jim Light being the older brother and serving as Rob Light’s assistant.
Rob Light said while at times it was tough, the trust they had in each other offset any potential problems.
“If anything, it made it easier because we think alike,” Rob Light said. “He’s an extension of me, so I knew I could trust his judgment on anything that needed to be done. It wasn’t a situation where I had to micromanage or stand over him.”
Botkin said Rob Light organized many of the events while Jim Light, who is also the co-head tennis coach at Caroline High School, “was the hardest-working employee we’ve ever had.”
But Botkin and Rob Light also knew Jim Light was ready to lead a facility on his own. So, when Fawn Lake had an opening for a full-time tennis pro, Jim Light seized the opportunity.
The community previously employed seasonal professionals who worked strictly during the summer months. But when Jim Light took over in 2013, he worked from April through early December. And during the winter months, he transferred programs to FCC because it has an indoor facility and Fawn Lake doesn’t.
“There was definitely a little bit of action out here that the [seasonal] pros had built up,” Jim Light said. “But I’m trying to help take it to another level being out here full time. It’s definitely grown with a full-time pro out here.”
Jim Light’s responsibilities have grown, as well. Like his brother, he now has to maintain tennis courts, teach youth and adult clinics, answer emails and phone calls and promote the sport at every possible opportunity.
“I definitely enjoyed my experience working with Rob,” Jim Light said, “but I’m enjoying this situation, too.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526