Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Blakeney Clouse
Grayson Barber never touched a tennis racket until the summer before his eighth grade year. Soon, he was an up-and-coming player on Jasper’s tennis team, eventually helping the Vikings secure two of their ten state titles.
When asked what sparked his interest in tennis, Grayson flashes a sheepish grin. “My brother (Alex) started a year before me. I can’t let him be better than me,” he says.
A recent winner of the Region 6 Bryant-Jordan Scholar Athlete Award for academics and athletics, Grayson owes much of his skill to Grant Rolley. After offering a free lesson, the Musgrove Country Club tennis pro took Grayson under his wing. One of the first lessons was adjusting to Rolley’s coaching style.
“Grant was just dogging me,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I’m going home.’ He said, ‘How? You don’t have a car.’”
After a lengthy hike down Country Club Road, Grayson returned and finished the lesson. “He was just pushing my buttons, but it made me better,” he says. “I had a lot of fun with Grant. He’s helped me a lot.”
Viking head coach Christian Matthews was also a heavy influence in helping him develop his game. Grayson says Matthews often came to the fence with good advice when matches were going sideways.
This fall, Grayson heads to college at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where he plans to major in accounting. Reflecting on the Vikings’ ten state championship titles, he says there are more to come.
“State championships speak for themselves,” he says. “Last year was our 10th win in 19 years and I expect to see them win more. It’s something I will always be proud of.” 78