In their own words: Pam Sloan on tennis in the public parks

Compiled by Peter Francesconi | July 13, 2022

The National Public Parks Tennis Championships (NPPTC) will be the weekend of July 22-24, hosted by the Bucks County (Pa.) Tennis Association and supported by the Bucks County Tourism Grant Program. The event returns to the Philadelphia area for the first time since 1926. (For more on the NPPTC, visit its website.)


Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the NPPTC, which was started in 1923 in St. Louis by tennis legend Dwight Davis (founder of the Davis Cup international team competition), who was the city’s parks commissioner. The 2023 tournament will return to its birthplace, St. Louis.


In honor of the NPPTC, we’ve asked volunteer leaders who have been instrumental with the tournament over the years to share their thoughts on the importance tennis in the public parks has played throughout the history of this sport in the United States. Up next: Pam Sloan.

I’m a park rat. I grew up in the parks system and always played tennis on public courts. Since my background is from the ultimate “grassroots” of tennis, I’ve been a strong advocate for utilizing parks to introduce tennis to players, and potential players, of all ages. I believe that local park and rec agencies, as they are a natural delivery system, can be the biggest producers of tennis players in this country.


My career has also focused on the park and rec world. I was the tennis director of Kansas City (Mo.) Parks & Recreation, then later became the director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Stockton (Calif.), where I heavily promoted tennis. I also worked for World TeamTennis as a community coordinator for the Sacramento Capitals and California Dream WTT teams. Currently, I’m—technically—retired, but I’m busy as a consultant in parks and recreation, specializing in organizational management and operational assessment. As a consultant, I have the opportunity to promote tennis throughout Northern California.


Since grassroots tennis is where it all starts, I love being a volunteer with the USTA and other tennis organizations. Volunteering allows me the opportunity to give back to a sport that I love—and one that I believe can change lives. Currently I’m the vice chair of the USTA National Public Park Tennis Committee and a board member of the National Public Parks Tennis Association. I’m also the president of the Stockton Junior Tennis Patrons and a board member and president-elect of the USTA Northern California Board of directors. I serve on a number of USTA Northern California committees, including chair of the Parks & Rec Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee.


One of my primary goals is to bring the park system to the forefront in the growth of tennis. I’m thrilled that in recent years, the USTA has made public parks tennis a focal point—with more than 70% of tennis being played on public courts, it really is a no-brainer. 

The National Public Parks Tennis Championships is such an exciting tournament. I’ve always been an advocate for this event, and in fact, we hosted this event in Kansas City when I was tennis director for the city. The NPPTC isn’t just about tennis, but about having fun and meeting people from all over the country; the networking experience is amazing. This tournament is so important because it reaches out to the public court player and allows them to come to center court and show their talent. It showcases the public park connection to the sport.


Every opportunity I get to promote tennis I also, promote the NPPTC tournament. But the event isn’t without its challenges—particularly in the area of sponsorship. Many of us are continually seeking sponsors to help in administering the tournament. Ideally, we need to find a long-term sponsor for the NPPTC, which would ensure the event continues to thrive in years to come, as tennis in the public parks continues to grow throughout the country.


Providing tennis programs and opportunities in a park and recreation agency has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I share one story: Some years ago, I received a call from a woman who wanted a female to teach tennis to a group of ladies. At the time I did not have female instructors, so I decided I would teach the eight weeks myself.


As the women arrived, I realized the challenge may be more than I expected. They all wore long skirts, indicating they were from a religious group, and I worried about how they would get around the court. As we started learning about the equipment and the court and started an exercise to determine their skill, it was apparent many lacked eye-hand coordination. It was going to be a very long eight weeks, I thought.


The next Saturday, they showed up in their pedal pushers and with racquets they had bought from Walmart. I couldn’t help but smile at their enthusiasm and excitement. It took a few more weeks, but as I watched the ladies work on their hits, two of them managed a four-hit rally—and the air was filled with joy and excitement.


To this day it makes my heart feel good to know that I taught these ladies to play. I ran into them that winter at a mall, and they hollered from a distance, “Hey, coach!” They talked about still playing every Saturday at their local public park, and of their love of tennis. There could be no bigger reward than this for the work I do—and we all do—in tennis.


[Editor’s note: Stockton, Calif., resident Pam Sloan’s many honors include the USTA Missouri Valley Distinguish Service Award, the National Public Parks Tennis Association Jean and Hollis Smith Lifetime Achievement Award, the “Exceptional Service Award” from Kansas City Parks and Recreation and the “Outstanding Service Award” from USTA for her NJTL work. She also is a member of the USTA Missouri Valley Tennis Hall of Fame.]

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