Thacker and OPRC Earn Gold Star Awards
In honor of our 100th anniversary in 2020, the USTA Missouri Valley will be recognizing 100 deserving tennis providers, players, partners and more across our section throughout the year.
Selected nominees will be given a Gold Star award, recognizing them for the contributions they are making to support and grow the game in the USTA Missouri Valley based on specific program areas and attributes.
April’s Heart of America award winners are Eric Thacker of St. Joseph, and the Overland Park Racquet Club, represented by co-owner Elliott McDermed.
Over the past four years, Thacker has been providing to the St. Joseph community through his coaching service, Eric Thacker Tennis.
“We go to the elementary, middle and high schools around the area,” Thacker said. “We’ve had a very good relationship with the school district. We’ve also been instrumental in the St. Joseph Parks and Recreation program, where we’ve been able to introduce kids to tennis.”
Thacker was introduced to tennis at four years old, playing junior-level tournaments through the USTA. He spent time on the pro tour for some time, but all roads led him to coaching.
“By the time I was 15 or 16 I realized that this was something that I wanted to do long term,” he said. “I had a great mentor in Ron Selkirk, which was pretty decisive for me.”
Image 1: Eric Thacker pictured with his daughter.
Image 2: Elliot McDermed receiving a USTA Missouri Valley award on behalf of Overland Park Racquet Club.
Thacker continues to serve the tennis community, teaching life lessons and building the sport along the way.
“Our mission is to expand tennis in and around Northwest Missouri,” he said. “We try to do that through lessons, leagues, clinics, the Parks and Rec department and schools.”
Overland Park Racquet Club
Six years ago, Elliott McDermed and Eric Rand, founders of Kansas City United Tennis, decided that they were ready to expand their roles in the tennis community. They purchased the Overland Park Racquet Club, and have since transformed it into a first-class facility.
“We’ve been taking on this project and trying to make it the best club in the United States,” McDermed said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re pretty proud of what we’ve done there with the club.”
In those six years, they have poured countless time and resources into bettering the club, constructing and refurbishing. The club boasts 14 indoor courts, four clay courts and four hard courts to go along with a fitness center as its main attractions.
Since McDermed and Rand’s arrival, they have reconfigured the clubhouse’s outlay, put in a new pro shop, renovated the locker rooms, upgraded the bar and restaurant and installed brand new lighting, among many other things. Next on the agenda is resurfacing the indoor courts.
“It's fun, but it’s also daunting,” McDermed said. “There’s always something new that we want to do. We just have to try to make good decisions along the way.”
With the purchase of the Racquet Club, they have merged their highly successful KC United Academy. The Academy now largely functions out of the Racquet Club, teaching young players the values of academics, athletics and sportsmanship. The results speak for themselves; they have graduated over 50 collegiate tennis players since 2008, placed individuals on the national stage and brought in a number of organizational awards.
Through it all, Rand and McDermed remain committed to increasing inclusivity in the game of tennis.
“There are multiple opportunities to play at the club as a non-member,” McDermed said. “Outreach and growing the game is one of our greatest missions.”