Evan White had his eyes on an early retirement plan so he could enjoy doing what he loves. But today, he’s living out his dream while still holding down a full-time job.
White, a 1991 product of Russell High School, now officiates tennis matches at the college level and coaches high school players.
The former No. 1 ranked high school singles player and No. 1 player in the 4.5 Division in the South, now calls tennis matches in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) at the NCAA Division I level. For the past five years, White has served as the head tennis coach at his high school alma mater and was the assistant coach for about 12 years under Tracey Edwards before that.
“I just love the game of tennis,” White said. “I always love to play, and I enjoy watching it, too. And that was my original thought process… to become an official when I retire.”
Although White is far from retirement age, he is putting together a nice little nest egg for when that time arrives. He arranges his own schedule during the season to work around his full-time job as a regional manager for a contractor at Marathon Refinery.
After he earned his officiating license, he first started calling matches at the professional level.
“I’ve called matches for Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki and John Isner,” he said. “But I don’t officiate at that level anymore because they need you about every week. I did some when the pro event was held in Ashland, but when they brought it back, I officiated the qualifier and helped with ball kids.”
Today, White is a regular official for the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee, The Ohio State University and Marshall University. He also does tournaments at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels.
White officiated most of the UK tennis matches this year and the men made it to the NCAA tournament finals.
“It’s just amazing that I get paid to do something I really love to do,” he added. “I enjoy the travel, and I can’t get any closer to the action than I do. I’m a few feet away from the players and on the court. It’s perfect.”
White started his path to certification fifteen years ago when he took a class in Ashland. He followed up with training in Louisville and Lexington. Today the training is all online. He must pass an annual eye examination and have 20/20 vision with or without glasses, and he must undergo a background check.
Officiating for the SEC is no easy task, as it has an established reputation as one of the best and most competitive tennis conferences in the nation.
“SEC tennis is tough,” he said. “Most of the officials I met and know told me that if I can do well at the SEC level, then I can call anywhere.”
From January through May, he is on the road nearly every weekend.
One of the hardest matches he called was an individual SEC tournament between two college classmates and athletes on the same team. “I thought it was going to be easy going into the finals,” White said. “But when the freshman on the team was playing a senior on the same team and was about to pull off the upset, it got a little heated. I had to call some code violations. It turned out to be one of the worst matches I’ve ever had to call.”
White prepares before each match by going over the rule book to refresh his knowledge. He also works with a lot of good officials who arrive about an hour before each match.
“We always get together and go over any issues from matches we’ve called where something has come up,” he said. “We make sure
we are all on the same page because we all want to be consistent. That is our main goal. We talk a lot to each other to make sure that happens.”
When White played the game, he was known for his “big serve” which led to winning the hard serve contest at the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in Cincinnati three years in a row. His hardest serve was clocked at 154 mph.
White said today’s professional tennis remains popular among fans.
“The U.S. Open in New York is always sold out,” he said. “They have one of the largest facilities in the world, and they have to add seats. The players are more athletic and just keep getting better.”
He noted that the game is improving each year at the college level. “The top colleges have their own nutritionists, and all the players are on special diets and have strength conditioning coaches,” he said. “That is why Kentucky and Tennessee are ranked in the top 10 and why Florida is No. 1. The SEC has a system that works.”
For now, White will continue his day job and keep making his retirement dream come true each year.
“I have a long way to go until I retire,” he said. “I’m doing what I love and hope to keep doing this for a long, long time.”