Smashers Returns to USTA Heart of America
On Friday, June 19, youth tennis tournaments were finally able to make a return to USTA Heart of America, in the form of a Net Generation Smashers tournament, hosted by the Stephanie Waterman Foundation at the Overland Park Racquet Club.
Tournament director Scott Hanover said that while planning for a tournament during COVID-19 was difficult, it paid off in the end.
“There was definitely some extra work that went into it,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without my intern, Brady Worstell. He and I spent a lot of time thinking through all of the new procedures. It was more work, but it was still fun, because it was like doing for the first time, even though I’ve done it a thousand times.”
The tournament included various safety procedures, including mask requirements for spectators, hand sanitizer stations for players to use and specially designated balls for each player.
These procedures provided assurances for players and parents, including Dustin Perry and his daughter, Gabriella, who was playing in her first-ever tournament.
“It’s great that people are out and able to do this,” Dustin said. “And that they’re able to do it in a safe environment.”
Gabriella, age nine, was not too bothered by the safety procedures, and was just happy to be able to get out onto the court.
“It’s fun. I like playing tennis and being competitive,” she said.
The tournament was divided into two sections, one played with the orange ball and one played with the green ball. In total, there were 19 players that participated. Balark Sen went 4-0 in the Boys’ orange ball event, while Oviya Jayaprakash went 3-0 in the Girls’ orange ball side. Gretchen Beard went a perfect 2-0 in her green ball matches.
The players, many of whom do not have much tennis tournament experience in general, let alone in the social distancing era, were aided by court monitors, who both helped players understand the rules and helped them follow safety guidelines.
“We had a lot of volunteers that were working on behalf of the foundation: Alisha Castaner, Dylan Yan, Jean Li, Sydney Fuger and Carly Burkholder,” Hanover said. “We were super happy to have all of them, we couldn’t do it without them.”
Safety procedures and all, players, parents, and staff alike were happy to be back out and involved with the game that they love.
“It’s so exciting,” Hanover said. “These are people I haven’t seen for a while, and it’s really special. We’re really proud at the Stephanie Waterman Foundation.”