1995 BOYS’ TENNIS: PREVIEW : Thompson’s Game Catching Up to Well-Rounded Life


The common school of thought on how to build a tennis champion: practice, play, sleep, practice, play, sleep. Maybe fit some school in now and then.

Nowhere in there does it say anything about playing Chopin and Liszt on the piano, seeing some 50 countries over summers with your mother or having a social life.

Meet Foothill’s Ryan Thompson, the highly ranked tennis player, world traveler and accomplished musician.


“I was so one-dimensional growing up,” said Thompson’s coach, Tim Pawsat, an All-American at USC who played five years on the professional tour. “I wish I would have done things differently.

“Ryan’s an outstanding young man. He’s very well-rounded. I have to push him to stay focused on his tennis. He’s got so much going on with his college recruiting stuff and his social life, that it’s hard for him sometimes.”

After finishing classes and tennis, Thompson flew to the Bay Area and then on to Muncie, Ind., this weekend for recruiting trips to Santa Clara and Ball State. Last week, he was in Columbus, Ohio, for a junior tournament. In December, he was in Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl tournament. In November, he was in Dallas for the National Indoors.

Thompson isn’t trying to set a record for frequent flier miles. He’s simply preparing for life as a pro tennis player, and for life in general.

“A lot of my traveling is for the experience,” Thompson said. “I like to go places and experience different situations. I’ve experienced many different cultures. I can basically adapt to anything.”

Pawsat, who also went to Foothill, said he isn’t used to seeing 17-year-olds so mature.

“He can loosen up and hang out with his peers, but by being around older people so much he’ll be able to make decisions a lot easier when he’s older,” Pawsat said. “He seems like he knows what he wants and he says it the way it is.”


He’s even that way when he’s talking about his tennis. There’s no nonsense, no gray area with Thompson.

When he’s asked if his team can win the Southern Section Division II title this year, Thompson bluntly says: “I don’t think I’m going that far off on a twig when I say we can win the whole thing. There’s no reason we should lose in the regular season.”

And the Southern Section individual title?

“I would love to do that,” he says less confidently.

But Thompson said his confidence has been soaring lately after it hit a valley in Dallas, where he lost in the first round of singles play.

“I’ve focused myself since then,” he said. “I kind of sat down and analyzed why I played so poorly. I reconstructed how I was practicing. I knew the good tennis was there. I just had to find it.”

Thompson, ranked sixth in the boys’ 18s in Southern California, said he’s also gotten tougher, and he credits Pawsat and his other coach, Jack Pate, for that.

“I had a tendency to be too nice,” he said. “I learned that nice only goes as far as the fence. I’ve sharpened up my line calls.”


But if he has a bad day on the court, there’s always the piano.

“It’s a release for me,” Thompson said. “It was fun when I was young and I’ve never known life without it.”

Thompson plays romantic and classical music.

“I’m still fairly serious about piano,” he said. “I don’t waste my time with pop very often.”

Just how good is Thompson?

“I’m good enough to where you can give me a Phantom of the Opera song and I can sit down and you could hear the melody,” he said.

Thompson isn’t big on playing piano in front of crowds but he plans to play at his graduation and his baccalaureate. And beyond that?

“I know with the talent I have I could be pretty good at it if I spent more time with it than 10 hours a week,” he said.

But Thompson realizes that the piano will probably never take him to the places that tennis will.


“By traveling with my mom, I’m already seasoned for all the traveling I’ll do on the pro tour,” he said. “I can’t wait to spend five or six years after college seeing the world and playing tennis.”

But first, Thompson must decide where to attend college--San Diego, Texas Christian, Santa Clara, Boise State, Ball State or Dartmouth.

Wherever he winds up, the student center better have a piano and the town better have a decent travel agent. Otherwise, the multidimensional Thompson might actually have to spend all his time studying and playing tennis.

How boring.


Boys’ Tennis at a Glance

Top players: Eric Bachelor, Mission Viejo, Fr.; David Bailey, Dana Hills, Sr.; Jonny Biorkman, Woodbridge, So.; Jon Cappello, Corona del Mar, So.; B.K. Chang, Villa Park, So.; Nolan Cooper, Trabuco Hills, Sr.; Chase Exon, Woodbridge, Fr.; Brandon Fallon, Dana Hills, So.; Mark Fisher, Brea Olinda, Jr.; Joseph Gilbert, Sunny Hills, Jr.; John Han, Sunny Hills, Jr.; Bret Hankey, Mater Dei, Jr.; Jost Hol, Foothill, Fr.; Ryan Hollis, Villa Park, Sr.; Andro Ignacio, Garden Grove, So.; Eduardo Kohlberg, Mission Viejo, Sr.; Jerry Liao, Canyon, Jr.; Ryan Moore, Servite, So.; Olatunde Osunsanmi, El Dorado, Sr.; James Pai, Loara, Jr.; Chad Smith, Villa Park, Jr.; Tyler Stonebreaker, Corona del Mar, Jr.; Ryan Thompson, Foothill, Sr.; Elliott West, Laguna Beach, Sr.

League favorites: Century: Foothill; Empire: El Dorado; Freeway: Sunny Hills; Garden Grove: La Quinta; Golden West: Servite; Olympic: Cerritos Valley Christian; Orange: Brea Olinda; Pacific Coast: Laguna Hills; Sea View: Woodbridge; South Coast: Dana Hills; Sunset: Los Alamitos.

1994 final poll: 1. Sunny Hills; 2. Dana Hills; 3. Corona del Mar; 4. Foothill; 5. University; 6. Woodbridge; 7. Canyon; 8. Ocean View; 9. Edison; 10. Garden Grove.


1995 preseason poll: 1. Dana Hills; 2. Sunny Hills; 3. Foothill; 4. Woodbridge; 5. Mission Viejo; 6. Villa Park; 7. Corona del Mar; 8. Laguna Hills; 9. University; 10. Trabuco Hills.

Key dates: Easter Bowl Tennis Tournament, Riviera Country Club, April 9-15; Ojai Tennis Tournament, April 27-29; Southern Section team tournament, May 16, 18, 23, 25, 30; Southern Section individual tournament, May 20, 26-27.

Notes: Geoff Abrams and Kevin Kim, probably the top two players in Orange County, have left Newport Harbor and Sunny Hills high schools for Palmer Tennis Academy in Tampa, Fla. Kim left for Palmer in the fall and Abrams followed his friend there in the spring. Kim and Abrams are members of the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team and are highly ranked nationally. . . . Corona del Mar lost its top singles player, Jed Weinstein, and its top two doubles players, Roberto Intriago and Paul Fruchbom. But the Sea Kings have added Cappello, a transfer from Florida and a highly-ranked junior, and should challenge Woodbridge for the Sea View League title. . . . Moore, who went to the final of the boys’ 14s at Ojai two years ago, did not play high school tennis last year but he should improve Servite’s team in a hurry. . . . Hollis, Thompson and Hankey are being recruited by most California schools and should challenge for the section individual title. . . . Last year’s section individual champion, Jakub Pietrowski from Ocean View, is playing as a freshman at Notre Dame.