Parkers Welcome Juniors for Thanksgiving Dinner, Tournament

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Parkers Welcome Juniors for Thanksgiving Dinner, Tournament

So what do you have planned for Thanksgiving Day? Heading over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for a turkey dinner and all the trimmings? Or getting ready to welcome family and friends for an evening of food and festivities?

Well, if you’re Stacey and Eddie Parker, you are preparing for 40 or so junior players and their parents to visit Raintree Swim and Racquet Club for Thanksgiving dinner and participate in the USTA National Open Boys’ 18 tournament Friday through Sunday.

“Do we miss out on having our own family [for Thanksgiving]? We do,” said Eddie Parker, co-owner of the western Henrico County facility. “But we see everybody around Christmas. I can’t get together with my sisters until Christmas anyway.

“This is our extended family. The USTA players and their families. We like it. It’s fun.”

Parker remembers hitting the road with his son and daughter for previous USTA tournaments during Thanksgiving.

“When our kids were playing over Thanksgiving, we traveled and saw the things that we liked and saw things that we didn’t like,” said Parker. “We thought it was time for us to give back to the USTA tournaments.”

Parker said the meal is prepared by members of the club, as well as volunteers from the Richmond Tennis Association.

“We have a good handful or so [who take part],” he said. “One family will bring four or five pies for dinner. Another family will bring stuffing and mashed potatoes. Another family will throw in a couple of turkeys. We have plenty of food.

“Then we usually put some out [turkey] for sandwiches the next day for lunch.”

This is the third straight year that Raintree – and the Parkers – have hosted a national tournament. The first two years it was the National Open Boys’ 16s event, which included local juniors Brett Moorhead and Liam Sullivan.

In 2014, the National Open Girls’ 18 tournament will be held over Thanksgiving weekend at Raintree.

“We close the club on Thursday and players can come in and use the facility [for practice],” said Parker. “Then, the players will check in between 3 and 5. At 5 o’clock, we have our official meeting. Then, we’ll have Thanksgiving dinner for all the players, their families, their coaches and anybody that came with them.”

The festive affair will take place in the social room, just off the main entrance to Raintree.IMG_0220

“It’s more of a homey feeling,” Parker said. “You’ve got a big-screen TV. People watching football. The players all sit together and eat. Families will all get a table and sit together. I think it’s a great way to kick off the tournament.”

The only local junior scheduled to play in the singles draw of 32 is Shyam Venkat, who is Henrico High School’s No. 1 player. Harrison O’Keefe of Salem and John Hublitz of Vienna are other state players in the field.

There will be players from Texas, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Ohio and Maryland, as well as Virginia, Parker said. A doubles draw of 16 is also part of the program.

In addition to Raintree, which has four indoor courts, the first two rounds of the singles tournament will be held at Hermitage Country Club (which also has four indoor courts) beginning Friday morning. The finals will be held on Sunday morning.

The tournament is open to the public and there is no admission charge. Parker believes it’s an excellent tournament for local juniors to come and watch.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Parker. “Any of these [local] kids that are wanting to be college players or wanting to play nationals, they need to see what this level is all about. All of the kids here are going to be college players. Some already are.”

Parker said a few college coaches will be on hand to watch the matches and check out potential recruits. The Raintree event is one of 18 USTA junior tournaments being held around the country Thanksgiving weekend in different divisions.

Fairfield Inn by Marriott and Holiday Inn Express, both located on Gaskins Road near I-64, are serving as tournament hotels, Parker said, and have offered the juniors and their families a special rate for the weekend.