You never know where a hobby is going to take you. Someone who likes to cook might eventually open a restaurant.

Someone who likes to paint might wind up with an exhibit in New York City.

For Jim Thompson, his hobby has turned into a full-time job, on top of the full-time job he's had for 29 years.

Thompson has been teaching at Lawrence County High for nearly three decades. He used to spend his spare time coaching everything from football to basketball to golf, or at least cheering them on from the stands.

Not anymore.

Ever since he decided to create a Web site -- CoachT.com -- for the Lawrence County girls basketball team 10 years ago, Thompson has had less and less time to actually sit and watch.

"I've been working on this thing every day for the last 9 years," he said. "I love it, though."

What began as a small, basic site that chronicled the basketball team's season, gradually grew into what it is today -- perhaps the most valuable, most visited Tennessee high school sports site in the state.

According to the traffic numbers that Thompson posted on the site, CoachT.com had 67,077,832 page views in 2006. So far this year, he's already had more than 10 million.

"I still can't really believe that it's gotten this big, but I'm grateful. I'm glad people like it," he said, then shaking his head. "But it sure is a lot of work."

After starting the site as a source for news on the Lawrence County girls basketball team, he expanded it to include all the District 8-AAA teams. In February 2000, Thompson joined forces with Rivals.com, the popular sports site known best for its comprehensive recruiting coverage. That led to yet another expansion, covering the whole state.

On the site there are links to newspaper articles from throughout Tennessee, along with scores, rosters, standings and more for every team at every school in the state. There are also 42,571 photos, as of the end of February, and a popular message board that has more than 62,000 registered members.

Rivals.com was struggling financially back then and their partnership ended after about 13 months when Rivals.com filed for bankruptcy in April 2001.

"There were some good and bad sides to that whole deal," Thompson said, "but the best part was probably that the people from all over the state that started reading the site, and working with the site, they stayed with us."

The partnership might have ended -- and Rivals.com has made a major comeback since -- but CoachT.com kept going strong. It kept getting bigger and more popular, though it has seldom been more than a break-even enterprise financially.

The increase in popularity and in content meant Thompson had to keep working harder and harder at it, when he wasn't teaching high school history.

Thompson said he starts his days at 5:30 a.m. He goes online and updates the Web site with links to stories of interest from papers such as the Tennessean in Nashville, the Knoxville News-Sentinel and any other paper with a Web site and high school sports articles he thinks his guests might enjoy.

After that, it's off to school. Once he's back home, it's usually back to work on the site as all the day's scores are posted.

Thompson might have started the site on his own, but it's by no means a one-man show. His wife Elaine, who teaches French at Lawrence County, spends an hour or two a day on it, working on the recently added college section.

Two of the Thompson's three children are also involved. Son Mark, who attends Tennessee, lends a hand from Knoxville and youngest daughter Katie, a junior at Lawrence County, is now taking pictures for the site.

In addition, Thompson's friend Bradley Lambert is involved.

"I need all the help I can get," Thompson joked.

Elaine never expected the site to be what it is today -- a thriving community based out of their house in Lawrenceburg.

"I had no idea," she wrote in an e-mail interview. "Jim likes to keep busy and loves sports, so having a (Web site) was a perfect outlet for both."

Just as Thompson is dependent on others to help update the site, he's also dependent on a long list of coaches, parents and others to provide the content.

If you need to look at the Collinwood softball team roster, for example, you can find it with a few clicks. It's there because it was posted, not because Thompson put it there.

"There's no way in the world I could put in every score, every schedule or every roster for all the schools in Tennessee," Thompson said. "People involved with the teams do that. Some schools are great about it, but others aren't.

"The ones who are dedicated to it, they help make the site what it is."

Thompson said he never really knew how dedicated his readers were until the server went down on Christmas Eve one year. The site was offline for about 36 hours, he said, before coming up again on Christmas Day.

"While the server is being worked on, I'm hitting refresh over and over again to see if it's up again," he said. "Don't forget, this is Christmas Day. It finally comes back up and I look down at the bottom of the screen and see that there are 15 visitors at that moment.

"The site had been down for more than a day, and here it was Christmas Day and 15 people were there.

"I didn't really know what to make of that, but I hope they found what they were looking for."

John C. Frierson can be reached at 740-5730 or john.frierson@timesdaily.com.

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