Lots of history

Father to Jones teacher and childhood friend to Hillary Clinton becomes new tennis couch


Losing the boys and girls Jones’s tennis coach, known to the students as Coach Dan Lee, seemed to be a detriment towards the season. Weeks before the girl’s season started, the head coach of five years announced he would be leaving for rival team Saint Ignatius College Prep. The search for a new for a tennis coach ensued and landed ultimately with veteran tennis player, but first year coach, Ernest Ricketts. A tennis player for over half a century, Ricketts has also been a part of an expansive friendship of the former first family, the Clintons, dating back to his childhood with the former Secretary of State, Senator, and first lady.

The scramble to find a new coach led Ricketts to become a part of Jones as the previous coach announced he was leaving two weeks before the start of the girls tennis season. The hiring of a new coach two weeks before the season did not deter the girl’s tennis team as the players found they accepted Rickett’s teaching style and landed third in the city championships, a step up from fourth place last season.

“[He] brings so much positive energy and he’s super helpful and encouraging and just a great man and [a] great coach [who] really helps out the team a lot,” said Armel Davasse ‘22 who experienced both the previous coach and Ricketts. “The freshmen have also appreciated his first year coaching.”

“[He] give[s] us tactics and help[s] us plan our game,” said Blaire Richards ‘23. “[He’s] really supportive and really encouraging of us and wants us to do well.”

While being a new coach, he is no stranger to Jones as his daughter Emlyn Ricketts, director of the pre-law program, is the one who helped facilitate his introduction to Jones. 

The younger Ricketts hearing of an open spot over the summer and felt the tennis credentials of her father matched what Jones needed in a coach.

“My father is very experienced at tennis he has been playing tennis for many many years, he played varsity tennis… in high school and in college and he’s played pretty much, certainly my entire life, several times a week,” said Emlyn Ricketts.

Even throughout school and his career of tennis, Ernest’s childhood friend Hillary Clinton has always maintained close contact with one another. Leading to both him and her knowing each others family in depth, allowing Emlyn and her brother Sterling to also get to know the Clintons.

“My father and Hillary Clinton went all the way through school together. Lived about a block away from each other in Park Ridge and were very close friends all throughout elementary school and all through high school, and then obviously kept in touch and throughout my childhood I knew the Clintons,” said Emlyn.

Due to knowing Hillary in particular depth, the opportunity has allowed him to visit the White House, sleep in the prestigious Lincoln Bedroom, and be able to join both Clintons on their own respective campaign trails. Media outlets have also expressed interest in Rickett’s history with Hillary Clinton, and have constantly invited Ricketts to talk.

“There’s a Frontline [investigative journalism on PBS] on Hillary that I was in, and CNN did a profile of Hillary, I was in that and interviewed many times,” said Ernest.

Ernest, himself, said he is very glad to have this friendship and proud that he has got to know in depth the life of the Clintons in terms of their political success. This included Bill Clinton’s and Hillary Clinton’s roles in government.

“I’ve had an extraordinary life, who would think that [you] get to know someone who became the president and ran for president,” said Ernest. “Someone you grew up with became Secretary of State and US Senator and got 63 million votes for president.”

However, while famous as the former first lady, the elder Ricketts still sees Hillary as his childhood friend and remembers her demeanor as younger kids. Commenting greatly on Hillary’s personality and love of baseball on the walk home from school.

“She was a great debater…that’s one of the happiest memories of our relationship was our all the time we spent together talking about you name it anything any topic, she loved the Yankees and the Cubs, she knew everything about baseball,” said Ernest. “Never a time when I didn’t think it was just a really remarkable and joyous experience just hanging out with her.”

As much as he admires the Clintons, he is still looking forward to the prospect of coaching the men’s tennis season in the spring.

“We’re excited about this it’ll be a lot of fun, I think we’ve gotten a lot of experience coaching [this year] and I think we’re ready.”