In their own words: Scott Hanover on tennis in public parks
July is National Park and Recreation Month, and it’s also the month the National Public Parks Tennis Championships (NPPTC) take place. This year, the NPPTC was hosted by the Bucks County (Pa.) Tennis Association and supported by the Bucks County Tourism Grant Program, and was the first time since 1926 that the event returned to the Philadelphia area. (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 National Park and Recreation Month and the NPPTC, we’ve asked volunteer leaders who have been instrumental with public parks tennis and 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: Scott Hanover.
Tennis in the parks is about inclusion, because anyone can play there. I felt so included when I was on my USTA [Foundation] National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) teams as a kid, and I wanted to perpetuate that when I became an instructor. As my life goals evolved and became about tennis, I always wanted to be involved in a way where I could make tennis affordable and accessible to all. My terrific parks experience as a youngster in Des Moines has carried through my entire work and volunteer life.
I grew up playing tennis at Tower Park and Waveland Park in Des Moines. I wouldn't be where I am today without those wonderful community-based experiences. Then, in the 1980s, I got my dream part-time summer job teaching NJTL youngsters in parks for four years. I loved working in every part of Des Moines; I learned so much about my own community. Neighborhood parks with courts are a great model for any city. Kids can walk or ride their bikes to these courts—and we always had tons of kids.
Later, I became the tennis director at the major public tennis facility in Kansas City, the Plaza Tennis Center, and was an employee of KC Parks & Recreation for about 12 years, and worked there more than 20 years overall.
Currently, I’m the part-time executive director of the Stephanie Waterman Foundation, a small NJTL in Kansas City that has been providing tennis, education and life skills since 1987. I’m also the head boys’ tennis coach at the Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Mo., which won the 2022 team state championships, and the director of tournaments and outreach for the Overland Park Racquet Club. I’m also the assistant director of local WTT leagues and a WTT team captain. (I’ve been on two WTT national championship teams.)
I live in Gladstone, Mo., outside of K.C., and last year, I became a volunteer member of the Gladstone parks and recreation board. I wanted to join the local parks board so that I can educate myself about other sports and how my city works, and because of the importance I place on our public parks for the health and well-being of all citizens. I’ve been a member of the USTA National Public Parks Tennis Committee over several different terms, including serving as chair in 2009-10, when I was privileged to succeed the legendary Billie Jean King, who became our honorary chair for my term. As a volunteer in tennis, I’m currently the vice chair of the USTA’s Competition Council, which oversees six national committees. I also chair the USTA Missouri Valley Adult Regulations Committee.
My volunteer career with the National Public Parks Tennis Association really took a leap forward because of Pam Sloan. Pam and I worked together on the park-based NJTL in Kansas City, and as she was getting ready to move away, she asked if I would get involved on the Board of Directors. I have been ever since, currently as the acting president.
Ever since I first got involved with volunteering with USTA Iowa in the mid-1980s, I thought it was important to give back to the game. I have continued to do so for a long time at all levels (local, district, section & national), mostly in community tennis, but also involved with schools, public relations, SERV (education), NJTL, and so on. I've always tried to refresh every few years, so I get involved in a different track and learn new things.
I’m excited to be involved with the National Public Parks Tennis Association and the National Public Parks Tennis Championships, which this year is in Bucks County, Pa.—and next year will celebrate its 100th year back in the city where the NPPTC was born, St. Louis. The tournament, and the organization, has a wonderful history, being created by tennis legend Dwight Davis with the help of the USLTA in 1923.
Anyone playing tennis in the parks can dream big. I have served tennis at every level, and absolutely loved working and playing in the public parks. It all starts in parks.
[Editor’s note: Scott Hanover was inducted into the USTA Missouri Valley Hall of Fame in 2021. He was named RSI’s Grassroots Champion of the Year in 2016, and is a recipient of the NPPTA’s Jean and Hollis Smith Lifetime Achievement Award.]