Brad Parks, the founder of wheelchair tennis and one of its biggest promoters, will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this upcoming July. After being paralyzed during a freestyle skiing accident, Parks developed the sport back in 1980. Since then, wheelchair tennis has grown worldwide and is played at the Olympics, at all four Grand Slams and has its own pro tour with players competing for 1.5 million dollars in prize money.
I had the chance to speak with Parks yesterday about his induction and his thoughts on the game.
ATN: What was your reaction when you heard the news you were being inducted into the Hall of Fame?
BP: I couldn’t believe it. Five years ago I was in the running but didn’t get it so I kind of assumed I wouldn’t get it. I was driving in the middle of Utah so when I got the call I was shocked but I didn’t have the chance right there to yell or call a few friends (laughs). But it’s great for wheelchair tennis as it will now be a part of the history of the game and I hope a lot more wheelchair tennis players will be recognized as well in the future.
ATN: What do you hope your induction into the Hall of Fame will do for wheelchair tennis?
BP: I’m glad that the history of the sport will be remembered. Recently we lost one of the greatest players in the sport Randy Snow. Randy was like our Jack Nicklaus or Roger Federer of our sport as he was our best player and spokesperson for the game so he would have been thrilled about this. Many people remember him and the titles he won and we also hope we can preserve many of the old racquets and chairs that were used so they too can be part of the museum. I think it’s just important for it to be part of the regular game and the history.
ATN: What’s changed about the game since you started it back in 1980?
BP: The sport is completely different than when we first started. We played in hospital chairs and now we’ve moved up to lightweight sport chairs. And also when I first started playing, a lot of club owners and tennis parks didn’t want us because they thought we’d damage the courts. We went through a tough time but now we play in all of the Grand Slams so it’s really thrilling to be part of the whole Hall of Fame.
ATN: For someone that wants more information on how to get involved, what’s the best way for them to do that?
BP: Here in the U.S. it would be to contact the USTA and the wheelchair tennis part of their site and find out which program is in your area. Or you could just go to your local club in your city. Or just a join a class and the pro can teach you or find someone who’s taking a wheelchair tennis class. There should be plenty of opportunities in your area.
For more information about the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, click here.
For more information about Randy Snow, click here.