— By MARGARITA VENEGAS
Imagine 12 tennis courts, all neatly kept, with full-service facilities and a pro shop run by a paid professional.
This is a dream of Don Quy, president and founding member of the Parker County Tennis Association.
The present-day realities of tennis in the county are the three courts at Soldier Spring Park in Weatherford, six courts in need of resurfacing at Weatherford ISD facilities and a few after-school programs.
The association still has a ways to go before they reach their ultimate dream — but Quy is hopeful they can see a positive change in the next three to five years.
Quy moved to Parker County in 1977 and, two years later, helped found the Weatherford Tennis Association. Interest in the group waxed and waned, and it was ultimately reorganized in 2000 as the Parker County Tennis Association in order to reach more people, Quy said.
Weatherford High School’s tennis coach for 22 years — he retired in 1999 — Quy notes that the association sees interest from about 20 youth in a variety of age groups each year. But, of course he would like there to be more interest, he said.
“Unlimited,” he responded when asked how many more members he’d like to see.
The focus of the nonprofit association has been heavily on children. The group takes children to U.S. Tennis Association competitive events, and would like to do more in the area to drum up interest — and provide continued support as children become adults.
“The interest is there,” Quy said of the community’s desire to participate in more tennis activities.
Board member Marie Welsh agrees and notes that if the association can get more participants and partners who can help with facilities, members will be able to provide more competitions and support.
Right now, the competitions start for youth as young as 6 to 8 years old, who use a small court. Those who are 9 use a medium-size court and competitors 10 and older use a regular court. An after school program at Millsap and one at Seguin Elementary in Weatherford introduce younger generations to tennis. The group is also willing to donate balls and resources to schools that want to promote tennis with an after-school or special program, Quy noted.
Although the association’s emphasis is introducing youth to tennis programs, there are opportunities for adults, Welsh and Quy said.
A women’s tennis group meets on Tuesdays and a men’s tennis group meets on Tuesdays, Thursday and Sundays. A comment box on the association’s website at www.parkercountytennis.org/volunteercontact.html is the best way to get in touch with members to learn more about their activities or to sign up to volunteer. In addition to teaching, adults can also help with website maintenance and transportation, Quy said. USTA competitions held in Fort Worth mean a lot of driving for the young players — and they often need help getting to and from their games, said Welsh.
By upping youth participation, she said, the association is also ensuring its future. When players get to high school and find themselves in need of accruing volunteer hours, they can come back and help teach the younger children, Quy said.
And, for their efforts, they may be rewarded beyond their community service requirement — the association gives out a $250 scholarship to a high school student who has been involved in the organization.
Group members play all year long and teach clinics both through Community Ed during the summer and the second Saturday of the month at Soldier Spring Park.
“The weather in Texas allows us to play all year,” Welsh said.
Of course, finding a place to play consistently can be tricky.
The Ninth Grade Center, with its six courts, is the largest tennis facility in town. However, the association has been raising funds for about a year to try to get the courts resurfaced. Working with the school district, city and businesses, they believe they can get the resurfacing done, Quy said.
Donations to the project are tax deductible and levels from $100 to $249, $250 to $499, $500 to $749, $750-$999 and $1,000 and up will receive a permanent plaque. The members stressed that all donations are welcome, however.