Nick Taylor Honored with Brad Parks Award at USTA Annual Meeting’s “Celebration of Community Champions”
Walt Disney World was indeed the happiest place on earth on March 20 during the USTA Annual Meeting’s “Celebration of Champions” Luncheon as Nick Taylor, the highly decorated wheelchair tennis player from Wichita, was honored with the Brad Parks Award.
Taylor was elated to have won the award, and his speech was met with applause, laughter, and tears. “I was nervous for the speech; I knew I would be crying. I hadn't seen the video the USTA had produced until I got on-stage, and then I came out from behind the stage and the whole room was standing. I was pretty choked up.”
“I just wanted to give a huge ‘thank you’ to every single person who’s helped me along the way. I can’t list them all because there’s so many.”
Taylor is a three-time Paralympic Doubles Gold Medalist with doubles partner David Wagner, a former world No.1 player in both quad singles and doubles, and holder of 11 Grand Slam titles–four at the Australian Open and seven at the U.S. Open–also with Wagner. Taylor and Wagner were also a large part of a Team USA squad that would win nine quad titles at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup.
And that’s just scratching the surface of his many achievements.
Taylor recently wrapped up an illustrious career, retiring from professional tennis in 2021 with an impressive 383 wins in singles and 430 wins in doubles under his belt.
While his resume as a player–one who dominated the sport with tenacity and a killer kick serve–is awe-inspiring in its own right, it’s his dedication to helping others succeed while also boosting the popularity of adaptive sports that helped earn him the Brad Parks Award for outstanding contributions to the sport of wheelchair tennis.
“[The award] is the biggest award in the sport of wheelchair tennis in the U.S. by far; one of a few that USTA National gives out, which is a massive honor,” said Taylor. “It means so much to me because, I guess to me, it means I did something right. I always felt it extremely important to give back to the sport. It completely changed my life, so to give that to other people [is wonderful].”
While many would wait for retirement to give back to the sport they love, Nick Taylor didn’t. Both as an active player and today, he is chair of the USTA’s National Wheelchair Tennis Committee’s Tournament and Rules subcommittee; a member of the International Tennis Federation’s Wheelchair Players’ Council; and a member of USTA Missouri Valley’s Diversity and Inclusion and Hall of Fame Committees. Taylor also co-founded Wichita Adaptive Sports, which helps champion the sport at a local level through mentoring and advocacy.
“When they told me I won [the Brad Parks Award], the first word out of my mouth was, ‘why?’ I feel there are so many other people who are deserving [of the award],” said Taylor. “But to hear that one of the things [the USTA] wanted to highlight was that I did that as an active player... there’s been very few people who have both at the exact same time.”
“I definitely got questioned at times from other people, saying, ‘Nick, it’s great you do this, but why are you trying to do it while you’re playing? Why not after you retire?’ My answer was, ‘I get where you’re coming from, but I can do both,’” Taylor continued. “I feel like I was able to have a stronger voice and be a stronger advocate for other players and have a bigger impact as a current player as opposed to putting the word ‘former’ in front of it.”
Reflecting on his tennis career, Taylor recalled two moments that stand out: the 2012 Paralympics in London, and when the U.S. Junior Team won the World Team Cup in Turkey.
“By far, [the most memorable moment as a player] the culmination of everything that happened in London at the Paralympics. David and I won the gold in doubles, but the atmosphere during that match was by far the most electric I’ve ever played in. We were playing two players from England in London, so it was crazy,” he said. “Additionally, I won the bronze in singles that eluded me in 2004 and 2008.”
“The moment that hit the hardest, though, was when the U.S. Junior Team won the World Team Cup in Turkey and Casey was on that team,” said Taylor. “It really hit me that I did something good for someone else and I did something good for the U.S.” Taylor is referring to Casey Ratzlaff, 23, of Wichita, whom Taylor has mentored from a young age. Ratzlaff recently qualified for his first Paralympic Games.
When asked about his retirement plans, you can imagine that Taylor won’t be slowing down anytime soon. “I’m just gonna continue to serve on all the committees I’m on and I’m hoping to be able to be invited to more camps to coach and put on more exhibitions and clinics,” he said. “That was hard to do while playing, schedule-wise, due to traveling, so I really want to do more of those.”
He also has his sights on another Paralympic Games–though not for tennis this time around. “I started playing paralympic boccia a couple years ago when I realized I would be retiring from tennis. I just wanted to continue to be competitive in something, and with the level of my disability, that definitely limits me to certain sports because I use a power wheelchair.”
Taylor plans to continue to advocate for and inspire future generations of adaptive sport athletes, and encourages those thinking about taking up adaptive sports to take the first step–and keep going. “Don’t be afraid to try. You have to be willing to fail, but not be able to accept failure. You’re not just going to get it right, right off the bat. You have to be willing to not be good; you have to be willing to fail. The only way to accept failure is to quit.”
“If I can go from not even being able to hit it five feet to where I am today, anyone can.”
To learn more about Nick Taylor’s career, both on and off the court, please click here and prepare to be inspired.