New coach working to build Penn Hills girls tennis program

Sunday, September 27, 2020 | 11:01 AM

The Penn Hills girls tennis team has a new voice leading the program as Rich Parks takes over for Jack Kowalski, who coached the program for over two decades.

Parks is the father of Richard Parks, who graduated from Penn Hills in 2011 after having a decorated tennis career. Parks takes over the program with a resume that includes coaching stops at Obama Academy and Westinghouse.

In addition, Parks has been involved in a junior tennis program where he provides free lessons on Friday nights to young players at the Mellon Park bubble. Parks is also involved at Alpha Tennis and Fitness.

Before covid-19, Parks was providing lessons to around 50 kids that ranged in age from 5 to 18 as part of the junior tennis program. However, starting in October, Parks will be working with kids in a registration-only format to comply with coronavirus safety restrictions.

“It has given me a chance to work with a lot of kids and give them the experience they wouldn’t ordinarily get because tennis classes at certain places cost a lot of money,” Parks said. “There are kids out there getting those lessons at private clubs three or four times a week. We are trying to provide these kids with some of those experiences.”

When he took the job in July, Parks felt the need to provide his knowledge to those involved in the girls tennis program, and he remembered how much tennis benefited his son.

“It provided him a great experience. I hope to give some of these kids a great experience. He got involved in tennis when he was younger,” Parks said. “Being involved in tennis gave him a good background and provided him good people to be around.”

This season, the Penn Hills girls tennis team includes six players on the roster, and only half have any tennis experience. The Indians dropped their first four matches against Shady Side Academy, Baldwin, Thomas Jefferson and Woodland Hills.

The Indians showcase sophomore Kellia Rivera, senior Irlynn Richardson and sophomore Talia Russell. Junior Symphony Coto and sophomores Franncie Bucker and Olivia Grainy also contribute.

“The goal is to get them experience as far as getting out there playing matches and understanding the game,” parks said. “In a year or so, I think we will be a little bit more competitive.”

Last season, Sabrince Turner-Johnson and Jada Gordon represented the Indians in the Section 3-AAA singles tournament. McMillan Van Hausen and Kelia Rogers represented the Indians in the doubles tournament.

Parks hopes to generate interest for future seasons through developing a feeder system with the junior tennis program. Also, Parks will continue the efforts to get tennis courts in the Penn Hills community since the team travels to play at Boyce Park.

“I want to bring the program back enough where the school will make sure they support the program a little more with having a facility of their own that will bring something to the Penn Hills community,” Parks said. “If they have them there, we will be able to generate that family interest. If we get those back, we will get kids back.”


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